Archive for category Cybersecurity
Emerging Cybersecurity Technologies
By: Amy Wees
June 9, 2013
Abstract: Advanced cyberattacks on the public and private sectors at the local, national, and international level have prompted an increase in funding and support for the study of emerging cybersecurity technologies. The considerations for this paper are to discuss the emerging technologies and strategies that can be integrated across the public and private sector to improve cybersecurity on a local, national, and international level. New technologies need to dynamically assess networks real-time such as with the use of Remote Agents and Real-time forensic analysis. These technologies also need to make the attack space less predictable and constantly evolving such as through the use of moving target defense.
Emerging Cybersecurity Technologies
The E-government Act of 2000 was signed by President Bush to move toward a more 24-7 government. The dream was to eliminate the need to have to stand in line at the DMV for half a day just to pay annual vehicle registration fees (Barker, 2011). Security was certainly a concern, but it was not at the forefront of the move as government agencies would go through massive changes in equipment, manning, and practices in order to move information and programs online. Now, over a decade later we still see moves and changes taking place, such as the department of Veterans Affairs recently moving all of their applications, forms and records online. The expensive cost of getting the government caught up was expected with such an overhaul in the system; however, the U.S. should have spent more on cybersecurity and had to learn this lesson the hard way. The recent breaches by Anonymous into the FBIs and Department of Homeland Security’s systems were disappointing as these were the two government agencies tasked with taking on cybercrime (Novasti, 2012). How does the government expect to control the protection of SCADA systems for critical infrastructures as recently proposed by congress if they cannot protect their own assets (Associated Press, 2012)? Annual Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) audits still point to lax practices (US SEC, 2011).
In 2009, President Obama called for a malware-based cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear system computer networks through the use of the Stuxnet worm, which was noted as the first use of cyber as a weapon by the US. More recently, Iran has experienced more cyberattacks linked to their nuclear systems and operations. (Airdemon, 2010).
Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) have changed the cybersecurity game as APT attacks can be so sophisticated that many well-known techniques for detection and mitigation may not be effective against them. An APT that utilizes targeted exploitation code leveraging zero-day vulnerabilities will not be detected by Intrusion Detection Systems and Anti-virus products (Casey, 2011). The issue is that once the malware is detected, it might not be obvious as to how long the malware was operational. Further, in the case of an APT, it cannot be determined if the discovered malware is the entirety of the compromise. The APT might leverage multiple malware tools to maintain access by state-sponsored attackers. With the aforementioned attacks on critical infrastructures and government systems, as well as an overall increase in complexity of cyberattacks, governments on an International level have considered cybersecurity to be more crucial than ever before.
The considerations for this paper are to discuss the emerging technologies and strategies that can be integrated across public and private sectors to improve cybersecurity on a local, national, and international level. New technologies need to dynamically assess networks real-time such as with the use of Remote Agents and Real-time forensic analysis. These technologies also need to make the attack space less predictable and constantly evolving such as through the use of moving target defense.
Moving Target Technologies
Moving Target (MT) technologies aim to constantly change the attack surface of a network, increasing the cost for an attacker and decreasing the predictabilities and vulnerabilities present at any time (NITRD, 2013). The problem of most networks today in terms of cybersecurity is that they are static and an easy target for an attacker to analyze over time and strategize on the best way to capitalize on vulnerabilities. Moving target defenses allow the network to consistently change in configurations and environmental values (Grec, 2012).
For example, an organization could change the network IP addresses, operating systems, open ports and protocols, and many other areas of the environment. This way when an attacker scans the network, the scans are not consistent, and if an attack is launched, chances of successful penetration are severely reduced because of the dynamic changes in the environment. The MT defense could also react to an attack by reducing the areas of the network known to or accessed by the attacker (Grec, 2012).
The most difficult challenge in using MT is in maintaining an operational network for users during the changes and minimizing costs involved. The JumpSoft Company has created a subscription based MT defense package called “JumpCenter.” JumpCenter uses reactive and adaptive automated systems that reduce the attack surface. The concept behind JumpCenter and MT defenses is to maximize the cost and risk to the attacker. JumpCenter keeps the network operational by deploying in the application layer. The application layer is more exploitable as it is updated regularly through vendor releases which are exploitable. JumpSoft adds the incentive that downed applications are a harder impact on the mission because the loss of one application can bring down the business (JumpSoft, 2013).
Government Support of Moving Target Technologies
In January of 2011, the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology sponsored the work of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program. NITRD has identified emerging technologies such as MT as a Federal Cybersecurity game change research and development project (NITRD, 2013). The government’s efforts to support NITRD and other research partners in developing MT technologies supports the efforts of the public and private sectors to redefine security in the cyber domain.
For example, in 2011 Professor Scott DeLoach of Kansas State received a $1 million grant from Air Force Office of Scientific Research to study MT (Chabrow, 2012). Intelligent defenses can change the military reactive position on cyber to an active position, giving them the upper-hand on the adversary. If military networks can be made unpredictable through the use of MT, the chances of cyber-attack and APTs are lessened.
Remote Agent Technologies
Remote agents, also known as mobile agents, can actively monitor a network’s security. Active monitoring is necessary because a network that is not updated with the latest patches has shown to be reactive and ineffective against today’s cyber threats. Additionally, large networks are nearly impossible for a system administrator to successfully monitor as most are made up of multiple nodes, each with constant system variations and users (Tripathi, Ahmed, Pathak, Carney & Dokas, 2002). Remote agents can conduct centralized testing of network security from a remote client or server without a large manpower or travel cost requirement. Most importantly, remote agents can run network tests without using unsecure firewall protocols (UMUC, 2012).
Currently, many organizations use network monitoring tools based on SNMP or the occasional execution of scripts built based on network threats which require tedious and complicated updates in order to remain current and valid. Both SNMP agents and script monitoring procedures offer limited functionality and require specially trained administrators to comb through logs and write updates (Tripathi, Ahmed, Pathak, Carney & Dokas, 2002).
In response to these network monitoring difficulties, a team of students at the University of Minnesota worked under a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a framework for mobile agent network monitoring using the Ajanta mobile agent system. The Ajanta mobile agents can remotely filter information and alter system functions. They use a centralized database to detect and compare system events to ensure policies are enforced. Using Ajanta, administrators can securely make changes to an agent’s monitoring and filtering rule sets as well as dynamically remove or add new agents to an area of the network based on events triggered. The model presented contains different types of agents that can monitor, subscribe, audit or inspect.
Perhaps the largest difference between the traditional SNMP monitoring systems and a remote agent system is the ability of a remote agent to relate one event with another in the system and then generate an alert in the log file and raise awareness or threat levels of other agents. For example, if one agent detects a user logging in with multiple accounts and another auditor agent detects a subsequent remote or console login in the event registry, a password or security compromise can be detected. In another example of a system reaction based on an agent, an auditor agent is sent to the login event subscriber by a management station. When a root login event occurs and passes a predefined threshold, an alert is sent back to the manager to raise the alert level on the system (Tripathi, Ahmed, Pathak, Carney & Dokas, 2002). All of this can be done without a system administrator’s intervention or brain power.
Government Support for Remote Agent Technologies
The government can benefit from the advancement of remote monitoring capabilities as the largest and most complex networks are government owned and operated. There are many coalition military networks that cross the boundaries of multiple countries. The monitoring and security of these government defense networks is at the best interest of everyone involved.
The ability to monitor classified defense networks to this level of clarity across International domains could aid in preventing insider leaks such as that of the Bradley Manning leak of military intelligence data to Wikileaks in 2010. Although Manning was prosecuted, Wikileaks founder Assange has yet to be prosecuted for publishing classified material on the Internet (Wu, 2011). Until international cyber laws and jurisdiction are better defined, it is in the best interest of all governments to find ways to successfully and dynamically monitor their networks for signs of attack or breach.
Real-Time Forensic Analysis
The use of computer forensic tools in criminal proceedings has proven to be necessary for making a case in today’s digital world. Also related to network monitoring is real-time forensic analysis which is an investigative approach to maintain situational awareness and continuous observation of the network (UMUC, 2012). While remote access monitoring actively monitors the network and takes necessary action to correlate threats and increase defenses, real-time forensic analysis allows for an incident to be reproduced and the cause and effect of the event to be analyzed further (UMUC, 2012).
A Network Forensics Analysis Tool (NFAT) prepares the network for forensic analysis and allows for ease of monitoring and convenience in identifying security violations and configuration flaws. The information found when analyzing network traffic can also contribute background data to other events (Corey, Peterman, Shearin, Greenberg, & Van Bokkelen, 2002).
In addition to monitoring the network, network forensics has many practical uses. For example, health care agencies fall under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires that information passed between networks be monitored. Although all of the information provided by a NFAT may not be necessary, it is better to have more information than not enough in legal situations. NFAT can also allow for recovery of lost data when other back-up methods fail or repeatable analysis of traffic anomalies or system errors (Corey, Peterman, Shearin, Greenberg, & Van Bokkelen, 2002).
Government Support of Real-time Forensic Analysis
Government support of real-time forensic analysis is more obvious in the state and federal criminal justice sectors as forensic analysis is a regular part of legal proceedings and police agencies have expanded to include entire divisions devoted to computer forensics. The question remains as to whether the government from a local to international level should be concerned with real-time forensic analysis outside of the criminal justice realm? Forensic analysis makes sense from a network defense perspective as governments can learn more about emerging threats by conducting an in-depth analysis of them.
In 2006, , the National Science Foundation and DARPA funded a project at Columbia University to create an Email Mining Toolkit (EMT) in support of law enforcement and other government research. The EMT allows for email traffic to be analyzed for outside communications, social interactions, and specific attachments. According to the report, EMT is in use by many organizations (Stolfo, Creamer, & Hershkop, 2006).
Since 1999 DARPA has funded numerous information assurance experiments using live red, blue, and white teams to simulate attackers, responders, and users during cyber-attack events such as denial of service, malware, and other threats known to be in use by the adversary based on intelligence data (Levin, 2003). Real-time forensic analysis has allowed for early detection and analysis of the red team efforts by the blue team and has contributed to lessons learned for future responses.
The liability to protect public and private assets on a local, national, and international level cannot fall solely on the government. Through the cooperative use of government, scientific, and academic programs, emerging technologies can be brought to the forefront to secure cyber assets dynamically and real-time. Increased and continuing cooperation to fine-tune moving target defenses, remote agent technologies, and real-time forensic analysis will ensure these technologies can be implemented across sectors to protect against emerging threats now and into the future.
Airdemon. (2010). Airdemon. Stuxnet worm. Retrieved from: http://www.airdemon.net/stuxnet.html.
Associated Press. (2012, February 6). Bigger U.S. role against companies’ cyber threats? Retrieved February 25, 2012, from Shreveport Times: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20120206/NEWS03/120206009/Bigger-U-S-role-against-companies-cyberthreats-?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE
Barker, W. C. (2011). E-Government Security Issues and Measures. In H. Bidgoli, Handbook of Information Security (pp. 97-107). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Casey, E. (2011). Handbook of digital forensics and investigation. Burlington: Academic Press.
Chabrow, E. Government Information Security, (2012). Intelligent defense against intruders. Retrieved from Information Security Media Group, Corp. Website: http://www.govinfosecurity.com/interviews/intelligent-defense-against-intruders-i-1565
Corey, V., Peterman, C., Shearin, S., Greenberg, M. S., & Van Bokkelen, J. (2002). Network forensics analysis. Internet Computing, IEEE, 6(6), 60-66.
Grec, S. (2012, May 23). Is moving-target defense a security game changer?. Retrieved from https://www.novainfosec.com/2012/05/23/is-moving-target-defense-a-security-game-changer/
JumpSoft. (2013). Cyber moving target defense. Retrieved from http://www.jumpsoft.net/solutions/moving-target-defense/
Levin, D. (2003, April). Lessons learned in using live red teams in IA experiments. In DARPA Information Survivability Conference and Exposition, 2003. Proceedings (Vol. 1, pp. 110-119). IEEE.
NITRD. (2013). Moving target. Retrieved from http://cybersecurity.nitrd.gov/page/moving-target
Stolfo, S. J., Creamer, G., & Hershkop, S. (2006, May). A temporal based forensic analysis of electronic communication. In Proceedings of the 2006 international conference on Digital government research (pp. 23-24). Digital Government Society of North America.
Tripathi, A., Ahmed, T., Pathak, S., Carney, M., & Dokas, P. (2002). Paradigms for mobile agent based active monitoring of network systems. In Network Operations and Management Symposium, 2002. NOMS 2002. 2002 IEEE/IFIP (pp. 65-78). IEEE.
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UMUC. (2012). Module 7: The future of cybersecurity technology and policy. Retrieved from the online classroom https://tychousa.umuc.edu
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (2011). 2010 Annual FISMA Executive Summary Report. Washington D.C.: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Wu, T. (2011, February 4). Drop the Case Against Assange. Retrieved February 27, 2012, from Foreign Policy: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/04/drop_the_case_against_assange?page=0,0
Digital Forensics Investigations: Data Sources and Events based Analysis
Data sources used to gain evidence in digital forensics investigations differ significantly depending on the case. This paper prioritizes data sources used to gain evidence for network intrusions, malware installations, and insider file deletions. These three events drive the prioritization of the types of data that are analyzed, what information is desired, and the usefulness of that data in regards to the event. Primary focus is information garnered from sources such as user account audits, live data systems, Intrusion Detection Systems, Internet Service Provider’s records, virtual machines, hard drives and network drives.
Digital Forensics Investigations: Data Sources and Events based Analysis
Digital forensics investigations deal with a multitude of data sources used to preserve and capture evidence to be used in a legal platform. The various events or crime scenes investigators encounter drive the prioritization of the types of data that are analyzed, what information is desired, and the usefulness of that data in regards to the event. The goal of this paper is discuss three specific events; network intrusion, malware installation, and insider file deletion and then analyze and prioritize data sources that can be useful in investigating each case.
A network intrusion occurs when a computer network is accessed by an unauthorized party. Network intrusions can have significant impacts on the victim organization as files can be stolen, altered or deleted, and hardware or software can be damaged or destroyed. In a case study by Casey (2005) published in the Digital Investigation Journal, a network intrusion investigation is described. The scenario presented in this case study will be the basis for analyzing data sources most crucial to the contribution of evidence.
In March of 2000 at a medical research facility, a system administrator completing routine maintenance tasks noticed an unfamiliar account with the name “omnipotent” on a server which he was solely responsible for. The administrator immediately deleted the account and notified Information Security personnel (Casey, 2005). The incident caused several laboratories to be shut down for days, preventing ongoing medical research resulting in severe financial losses for the company. Luckily, after a thorough investigation the perpetrator was caught and charged in 2004 (Casey, 2005).
Prioritized data sources
Many steps were taken by forensic investigators in this scenario to preserve evidence, reconstruct the crime, track the intruder and examine the data. The aim of this paper is to prioritize the data sources used in this scenario from the most to least useful in terms of a network intrusion. The first data source used was review of user accounts during routine maintenance. Without routine review of user accounts and permissions, the account the intruder was using to access the server may never have been discovered (Casey, 2005). This scenario exemplifies why account and role auditing is so vital.
The Federal Agency information technology (IT) Handbook on technical controls published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (2002) recommends access to any asset be controlled by combining technical and administrative controls to make sure that only approved users are given an applicable level of access and that they can be held accountable for their use of information systems. Access should be monitored by positively identifying and authenticating users. The handbook also makes clear that a weakness in policy at one node in the network can put other nodes at risk. Therefore, it is essential that all agencies have a uniform access control policy (NIST, 2002). Account and role maintenance should require users to authenticate with a strong password and to change passwords on a consistent basis. Administrators must also ensure user names belong to currently identified users and that users are deleted and updated often. Auditing should also be established on user accounts to ensure that accounts which haven’t been active for a period of time are deleted. Incorrect logon attempts should also be limited and locked after multiple erroneous password entries (NIST, 2002).
If some of these policies were in place in the above scenario, the “omnipotent” user may have been discovered earlier or prevented from accessing the system in the first place. Role auditing can be challenging when dealing with multiple types of operating systems and role based user accounts. Each operating system has different account systems and auditing procedures. It may also be difficult for organizations with a large pool of users to weed out inactive or incorrect accounts. Organizations may also outsource their IT services, making user role auditing a difficult process as the administrator behind the phone may not be able to positively identify a user or give the correct permissions to an account. User account and role auditing is the most useful of the four data sources in this network intrusion scenario as it is easy to accomplish and if maintained properly can aid an administrator in identifying if an account has been misused, locked out, or doesn’t belong.
Live System Data
Next, to gain more evidence, investigators used the Encase program to capture live data from the systems and kept an audit log by utilizing the script command. During this capture, they found that the intruder was accessing the network through a dial-up connection in Texas, had installed a sniffer, and also substituted the original Telnet for a version with a backdoor vulnerability allowing remote access. The sniffer log contained records of the backdoor intrusions as well as root passwords for multiple computers. They also discovered the hacker had created his own telnet password, “open_sesame” to access and compromise additional computers on the network (Casey, 2005).
The primary reason an incident handler would use a tool such as Encase to capture live data is to determine if an event has occurred and if a full investigation needs to be accomplished on a system. In the above scenario, the incident handlers used Encase to capture live, volatile data and were able to determine if a network connection had been made from the intruder to that computer. They were also able to view live system logs to see what passwords had been used to access the system. Capturing data from live systems is also called “live forensics”. Live forensics capture system information or volatile data that disappears after the device is powered down. The challenges of live forensics are in preserving the state of the system and ensuring the data captured is forensically sound (McDougal, 2006). The best way to do this is by using a forensic toolkit such as Encase which keep the process as automated as possible. In the above scenario, a new employee who wasn’t competent in live forensic processes missed files on several machines and didn’t keep an audit log which allowed incident handlers to determine which data came from which computer, leaving all evidence captured to be inadmissible in the case. Live system data is the second most useful data source because live data provides the most promising evidence to discover what files and systems have been compromised and gives evidence in real time as to how the intruder is accessing the system (Casey, 2005).
Intrusion Detection System
The third data source used was the intrusion detection system. After the subnet used by the intruder in Texas was discovered from the live system analysis, investigators were able to reconfigure the intrusion detection system to monitor network trafﬁc for these connections. After the reconfiguration, investigators were able to monitor network traffic and watch as the hacker accessed more machines not previously found to be targeted using the telnet backdoor password. Critical systems were able to be secured and processed for evidence as a result of these findings (Casey, 2005).
Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) are indispensable in detecting network intrusions because they can be programmed to automatically alert administrators when abnormal network traffic occurs. Hill & O’Boyle (2000) compare IDS to a burglar alarm as although one observes cyberspace and the other physical space–both provide alerts when the unforeseen occurs. The main difference is that in cyberspace unauthorized actions are harder to detect than those in a physical space. The challenge for an IDS operator is sorting out the harmless activity from the anomalous and programming the IDS to capture future anomalies (Hill & O’Boyle, 2000).
Automated IDS and accompanying forensic procedures utilize “signature matching,” which searches network connections and activity alerting on specific incident patterns and means of attack. Unfortunately, automatic signature matching is not a definite process and is determinant on many factors. Signatures often create false alarms because they are too generalized, such as alarms for port scanning. Attack profiles can also vary considerably from well-known malware insertion attempts to customized programs created to target specific systems and not yet known to the public. The latter customized attacks are not caught by IDS because signatures do not yet exist for this situation and are not made available until after the attack. The downside of utilizing IDS in this situation is that, without the latest updates, IDS is not nearly as effective (Hill & O’Boyle, 2000).
Forensics investigators can start by sorting through automatically generated IDS alarms and then use clues from the alarms to further analyze less developed system logs and information. In order to isolate evidence of an intrusion, the investigator needs vast knowledge of various operating systems and hacking techniques and must comprehend logs of diagnostic tools and systems. IDS is the third most useful source of evidence because after discovering the intrusion, the IDS is able to capture details about the rogue connection and help prevent or block further connections as well as pinpoint where the traffic is aimed.
Internet Service Provider Records
The last source of evidence was the Internet Service Provider (ISP) used by the hacker. Investigators were able to call the ISP and request logs and records connected with the case be preserved (Casey, 2005). According to Daniel (2012), after a subpoena if one is requested, there is some basic information that can be gleaned from ISP records, dependent on what the ISP collects on its account holders. Some of the available information could be names, e-mail addresses and mailing addresses for paid account holders, to include payment information such as credit cards or bank account information, which may lead to other evidence. IP addresses assigned to the account during the dates and times requested as well as associated activity may be available along with a MAC address for the computer making the connection (Daniel, 2012). The challenge of collecting information from an ISP is that a subpoena may be required, information may not always be reliable, and different ISPs carry varying amounts of information regarding their customers. For these reasons, ISP records are the least useful data source in this scenario.
Malware is malicious software that can emerge from scripts or codes hidden in websites or content, embedded in web advertisements or buried in different types of software programs. Malware can infect a system when a user visits a website, opens an email, or clicks on a hyperlink among many other normal activities. The types of malware that exist are viruses, rootkits, spyware, and worms. Each type infects a system in a different way (Goodrich, 2012). Malware is dangerous because it exists in a multitude of formats, is easy to create and hard to track. Although there are many different anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware applications to detect and remove malware from a system, the programs are only as effective as the updates provided to recognize the attack.
One common scenario was presented by Martin Overton at the 2008 Virus Bulletin Conference: a user calls the helpdesk with a complaint that their computer is suddenly unusually slow to respond, and they aren’t able to bring up task manager to figure out what the problem might be. How does the helpdesk know if the problems are caused by malware or if the user has done something wrong? Alas, the anti-virus program shows no signs of an infection, is recently updated, and has been active throughout the reported timeframe. What should the administrator do? How can the machine be investigated further to determine the presence of malware (Overton, 2008)? Overton presents an all too familiar scenario which will be used as a basis for analysis of a malware installation.
Prioritized data sources
Live System Data
Similar to the network intrusion scenario and most useful to the malware installation scenario is the collection of live system data. Overton (2008) recommends that after a suspect system is identified, all traffic coming to and leaving the system should be captured to include searching for hidden files inserted by malware, most likely located in alternate data streams. Nmap, Nessus, and various other vulnerability assessment tools can be used on the suspect workstation as well as the network to analyze anomalies (Overton, 2008). Programs such as Helix3 and Windows Forensics Tool-chest can examine volatile system data for valuable clues such as network routing tables, system drivers and applications, and analysis of running processes and services, all without alerting the attacker an investigation is taking place (Aquilina, Malin & Casey, 2010). The challenge in determining if malware is installed on a live system is that tools may not be available to conduct a thorough analysis and anti-malware tools may give a high amount of false-positives or the malware may be so stealthy it goes unnoticed until the damage caused is irreparable.
Intrusion Detection System
An IDS is the second most useful tool for malware installation. After the initial investigation is complete and the analyst has deemed an infection is probable but wasn’t caught by the anti-malware program; the workstation should be removed from the network to prevent the spread of malware to other systems and the ports and protocols collected should be analyzed further using IDS or other network analysis tools such as Wireshark or Snort (Overton, 2008). The second step in discovering malware is analysis and IDS can assist in malware detection by creation of signatures created based on the information captured from the previous inspection. These signatures can then be implemented to block future attacks until anti-virus programs are updated. There are many reasons IDS can be used to both detect and prevent malware that comes in through the network boundary. In a second conference presentation written by Overton (2005), he explains that malware is quickly evolving and requires faster detection methods. IDS can also be part of a defense-in-depth strategy that uses IDS in combination with anti-malware scanning tools to provide improved protection. Finally, using an IDS for malware detection uses the IP from the source and this data can quickly eliminate the spread of threats across the network (Overton, 2005). The challenges with an IDS is that signatures can be difficult to create and maintain, they require training to understand and utilize for malware detection, and the amount of information left for an investigator to comb through may be overwhelming.
The third most useful data source for malware installation and analysis is the use of a virtual machine. As suggested by Overton (2008), a private or closed network or lab environment should be used to analyze malware if available. Virtual machines can make this possible by allowing for multiple systems to be running from the same hardware allowing the observer to watch how a string of malware behaves inside various systems, also called “behavioral malware analysis” (Zeltser, 2007). Virtual machines can take on the forms of many different types of systems or platforms, without requiring an entire lab of expensive equipment. Virtual machine program vendors such as VMWare allow the administrator to take multiple snapshots of the systems settings, performance and volatile data throughout the observation process so that if further study is needed it is possible to go back to a previous snapshot. VMWare can also create a simulated network so that it is not necessary to connect the infected machine to a live network allowing for analysis in a protected environment while still having the ability to analyze network traffic (Zeltser, 2007). In a virtual environment, threats can be detected and mitigations tested and proven.
The use of virtual machines (VM) also presents challenges in that a virtual environment cannot always fake the characteristics of an operating system on a physical platform, allowing attackers to possibly discover the VM. In certain cases, a virtual environment may not meet the need because of the type of system being imitated or the response of the malware, requiring the analyst to utilize a complicated and expensive laboratory environment (Brand, Valli & Woodward, 2010).
Insider File Deletion
Inside threats to an organization can come from employees, contractors, vendors, visitors, and anyone else with reasonable access to company assets. What makes insiders threatening is their familiarity with systems, databases, and processes as well as their permitted position inside of security barriers (Cappelli, Keeney, Kowalski, Moore & Randazzo, 2005). Accidentally or not, files that are crucial to an organization can be deleted and information security personnel need to have the skills and tools to be able to recover data for various reasons.
In a scenario from March 2002 offered by Cappelli, Keeney, Kowalski, Moore & Randazzo (2005), a resentful employee of a finance company planted a logic bomb that erased 10 billion files prior to quitting over an annual bonus disagreement. A logic bomb can be inserted into a computer system and set to activate at a later time or upon a specified action. The deleted files in this case impacted servers across the country and cost over $3 million dollars in damages and file reconstruction. Were the company able to recover the deleted files, what data sources would be useful to the investigation? This query will be the basis for this analysis.
Prioritized data sources
Hard Drive (Non-volatile system data)
In the previous subjects of network intrusion and malware installation, live system data has been the highest priority data source because of the indications given by volatile data. However in the case of insider file deletion; the first goal is to make a forensic copy of the hard drive in an attempt to recover data that hasn’t been overwritten on the hard drive. Even the least savvy computer user will know to delete files from the recycle bin so volatile data is not as much of a concern as the non-volatile data that resides in the master file table which can be recovered with the assistance of various third-party applications.
For example, when a file is removed from the recycle bin in Windows, only the file information such as the path, sector, and additional identifying information such as create and modify dates have been erased. Windows is simply notified by the file system that new space is available for use where the deleted file used to be and any newly saved files will overwrite information deleted long ago. In spite of this if a newly saved file is not as large as or does not take up all of the space of a previously deleted file (hence the old information is not completely overwritten), the file is still recoverable with the use of forensic software. If only a short time has passed since the file deletion, tools such as WinUndelete for windows can easily recover the file (Landry & Nabity, n.d.). The challenges of recovery from a computer hard drive are that after a period of time, the desired files may be entirely overwritten. A smart criminal may also use freeware such as “Eraser” to overwrite erased data immediately making it unrecoverable by forensic toolkits (Capshaw, 2011).
Of equal worth to a forensic investigation in the insider file deletion scenario, is the recovery of deleted files from a network storage device. In most cases, files of considerable importance to an organization must be shared with a group of people and are therefore located on a network storage device such as a Network Attached Storage (NAS), Windows File Server, or a Storage Area Network (SAN). After a file is deleted from a folder on the network, the easiest way to recover it is through previous versions. Microsoft TechNet (2005) explains that on most Windows Server versions, there is a previous versions tab that when selected, will bring up any files that have been deleted from that location and can then be copied and pasted to the newly desired location. Similarly, NAS and SAN file systems offer recovery of recent snapshot from the administrative user interfaces. The challenge with recovering files from a network storage device is that a copy of a RAID or other file system disk may be large and difficult to analyze. Insiders with administrative access may also know how to permanently delete files or destroy network storage volumes.
Digital forensics investigations deal with a multitude of data sources. This paper has covered three events which drive the prioritization of the types of data that are analyzed, what information is desired, and the usefulness of that data in regards to the event. Important data sources for network intrusions are account audits, live system data, Intrusion Detection Systems, and Internet Service Provider records. Malware installation requires examination of live system data, Intrusion Detection Systems and Virtual Machines. Recovery of deleted files relies mostly on hard drives and non-volatile data. Each data source has tools, advantages, and challenges for an investigator to consider dependent on the situation at hand.
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Trusted Platform Module
Team Project by: Philip Roman, Vouthanack Sovann, Kenneth Triplin, David Um, Michael Violante, Amy Wees
November 25, 2012
The focus of this paper is to discuss both current issues and recent developments in Trusted Platform Module (TPM) security as well as its strengths and weaknesses. The main reasoning behind TPM security devices was to establish a means of trusted computing. These devices utilize unique hardcoded keys to perform software authentication, encryption, and decryption among other things. This paper will discuss what TPM is comprised of, its strengths and weaknesses, possible vulnerabilities, TPM attestation, and potential uses for TPM. The intended audience for this paper are those who are technically savvy with an in depth knowledge of security concepts and a general understanding of TPM, encryption and other cybersecurity concepts.
As trusted computing becomes more prevalent and necessary, TPM enhances the security of information systems acting as a trusted entity that can be utilized for securing storage and cryptographic key generation among other capabilities (Aaraj, Raghunathan, & Jha, 2008). TPM was created by the Trusted Computing Group (TCG), an initiative between some of the most prevalent information technology corporations in the world, to establish a better means of trusted computing. The utilization of a TPM chip helps to ensure the security of an information system as it allows the implementation of security from a hardware perspective. Although TPM technologies and the software that utilizes them inherently contain flaws and vulnerabilities, the primary hesitation numerous groups have had with implementing TPM is that it is too inefficient. Some organizations, especially those that demand extensive end-user monitoring and activity logging, are hesitant to implement TPM as it will limit their ability to scrutinize activity or capture activity logs.
TPM is composed of three basic elements; root of trust for measurement, the root of trust for reporting, and root of trust for storage. These three elements refer to platform integrity measurements, the storage of these measurements, and the reporting of values stored (Aaraj, Raghunathan, & Jha, 2008). A secondary use of TPM is the generation of cryptographic keys. Figure 1 details the make-up of TPM:
Figure 1: Make-Up of TPM (Aaraj, Raghunathan, & Jha, 2008)
Benefits and Strengths of TPM
TPM offers three primary benefits: storage for secure content, secure platform specific criteria reporting, and hardware authentication (Ryan, 2009). By using a TPM to secure content, the user has the benefit of storing files securely without relying on a software based operating system. In the instance of mobile devices, users can encrypt entire hard drives using TPM thus reducing the risk of loss of sensitive information. Authors Van Dijk, Sarmenta, Rhodes, and Devadas (2007) explain how it is possible for many users to connect to an untrusted storage device over an untrusted network and protect the information being shared without reliance on a secured common operating system using TPM 1.2 technology. For example, many users today rely on secure storage servers hosted online so that they can share data between multiple devices and access information from anywhere. This requires the user to trust that their hosted information is secured with administrators, server and client OS and additional security software, and the server BIOS and CPU. Van Dijk et al. (2007) argue that in utilizing a TPM chip in the user’s machine and the online server; even peer-to-peer transactions can be completely secured using one-time certificates. A one-time certificate uses the TPM to verify the identity of the sender and receiver of the information which can be verified at any time after the transaction has occurred. The verifier also requires no contact with the issuer and need only rely on the TPM chip in the originating machine. Significantly, one-time certificates cannot be counterfeit or falsified even from a hacked machine which could open up their utilization to multiple offline applications (Van Dijk et al., 2007).
A TPM can also collect, secure, and report information about the state of a computer’s components such as the BIOS, boot records and sectors, applications and OS. The TPM can do this using platform configuration registers (PCRs) to securely pass information measured by one component about the state of another component. Upon boot-up, component X measures the status of component Y and inserts the data into a PCR where it is secured and able to provide the status of the platform from that point forward (Ryan, 2009). In order to pass this information known as platform configuration to another entity, the TPM encrypts the configuration using a secured signature key which can only be decrypted by a remote TPM key with the required authentication information (Sadeghi & Stüble, 2004).
Another benefit of TPM is hardware or platform authentication whilst preserving the privacy of the user through Direct Anonymous Attestation (DAA). Chen, Brickell, and Camenisch (2004) describe DAA as a secure group signature that cannot be tampered with after it is invoked. Additionally, each user can choose whether or not their signature can be attributed to another allowing anonymity. DAA requires four participants; the host or platform and its TPM, the issuer and verifier (Ryan, 2009). The TPM generates a secret message, receives a signature for it from the issuer and then uses that signature to prove to the verifier that the attestation was received anonymously (Brickell, Camenisch, & Chen, 2004). DAA also allows for detection of rogue or published keys because a verifier can confirm that a signature has already been used. Brickell et al. (2004) proved that DAA is secure using the random Oracle model assuming strong RSA and Diffie-Hellman are applied.
Weaknesses of TPM
A known weakness of TPM is the cold boot attack which overcomes the disk encryption thought to protect the contents of a hard drive from physical access. Halderman et al. (2009) report they were able to overcome the disk encryption of BitLocker, TrueCrypt, and FileVault with cold boot attacks. The idea behind an encrypted hard drive is that if a laptop is stolen in a locked state and the thief powers down the computer, everything in memory would be erased and encryption keys lost. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Bitlocker is provided by Microsoft for use with TPM and encrypts parts of the disk on demand. Halderman et al. (2009) created an automated tool called “BitUnlocker” using an external USB hard disk with a specialized driver allowing BitLocker volumes to be remounted on a Linux OS. The tool runs a key finder and tries each key until one works and after breaking into the system allows the disk volume to be searched using the other OS. When rebooting a Windows laptop and connecting to the external drive, the tool successfully recovered the encryption keys and allowed the hackers to decrypt the disk in moments (Halderman et al., 2009). An obvious mitigation technique would be to prevent physical access to the system using a defense-in-depth strategy or employing additional encryption methods on mobile technology.
Social engineering may also be a vulnerability to TPM as most Computer manufacturers such as Dell keep a master password list for each service tag number. Information Assurance professional Morrison (2010) found he could simply call Dell and provide the service tag number and they could provide the key to unlock his BIOS. Without requiring personally identifying information or passwords, anyone could call a company and receive the same master password. With that same phone call Morrison also found out makers of external hard drives also record the chips in the devices they sell so the same master password can be generated. Morrison (2010) recommends using an aftermarket external hard drive that may be less likely to provide such great customer service to protect sensitive mobile data.
Ideal Application of TPM
When one looks at applications that function well using TPM a good example is the Random Oracle Model noted by Gunupudi and Tate (2007). As noted by Gunupudi and Tate (2007, p.1) the Random Oracle Model “is an idealized theoretical model that has been successfully used for designing many cryptographic algorithms and protocols”. The idea with this model is to prove a cryptographic scheme is secure; where all parties, including the adversary, have access to a random function, called a random oracle, and then replace the random oracle with a “good” cryptographic hash function in the standard model. As a method to prove that the random oracle model is secure, evidence was provided that generated a scheme in the form of a standard model – thereby providing an instantiation of the oracle with a hash function that demonstrates that it is secure.
Another example of an ideal application that supports TPM and the TPM functionality is Cloud Computing. This was championed by Lui et al. (2010) where they proposed an idea, and then formally implemented it as virtual TPMs in a cloud-based architecture. The premise behind this development was to provide a technology with the TPM functionality for applications that did not have the use and capability of the TPM chip as part of their platform.
According to Lui et al. (2010) the TPM functionality in cloud computing was noted to be easily accessible to various applications in diverse languages due to cloud computing’s ability to distribute services to basic protocols. TPM and its hardware chip commonly perform well in most applications. Trusted Platforms add value to applications and services such as electronic money systems, email, workstation sharing, platform management software, single sign-on, virtual private networks, Web access, and digital content delivery (Pearson, 2005).
Law Enforcement Application
When it comes to Law Enforcement and the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), officials see benefits and drawbacks with certain features of TPM. From a digital forensics point of view, Burmester and Mulholland (2006) note that the advent of trusted computing has strong points. In fact, the Trusted Computer (TC) enabled features criticized by the naysayers may become a boon for cyber-investigators. On the other hand, if file-encryption becomes the norm, trusted computing may turn out to be law enforcement’s worst nightmare.
When trying to determine the effects and the types of TPM keys and its processes, it was noted by Liu et al. (2010) that the trust of TPM mainly lies in its capabilities for secure key management (i.e., key generation, storage, and use), and secure storage and reporting of platform configuration measurements. Each TPM has a unique endorsement key (EK), which is generated by the chip manufacture. Before using a TPM chip, users need to take the ownership of the chip and create a storage root key (SRK). Both EK and SRK are RSA key pairs, and protected by storing their private keys always in the TPM chip.
The TPM contains an endorsement private key (EK) that uniquely identifies the TPM (thus, the physical host), and some cryptographic functions that cannot be modified. How this method works is by the agreeing companies endorsing the matching “public key” to certify the acceptability of the “chip and validity of the key” in question (Santos, Gummadi, & Rodrigues, 2009).
TPM Authorization Protocols
The Object Independent Authorization Protocol (OIAP), according to Ryan (2009) crafts a specific period of time that can affect any object; yet only works with specific directions. To understand how OIAP works, an authorization session which begins with the command TPM_OIAP is executed. To set up an OIAP session, Ryan (2009) provided the following guidelines, “…the user process sends the order to the TPM simultaneously with a nonce argument. Nonces that function under the user process are labeled as odd nonces, and nonces under the TPM format are labeled as even nonces. When the TPM_OIAP obtains the authorization handle, the user process then comes together with the newly received even nonce. After which, each command within the session sends the “authorization handle” as part of its process, introducing a completely different nonce that is now odd. The response that is generated from the TPM now comprises of a nonce that is of an even nature. All authorization Hash Message Authentication Codes (HMACs), contain the latest “odd and even” nonces as part of this process. When looking further into this technology and the OIAP session, the authorization HMACs are keyed on the authdata for the resource (e.g., key) requiring authorization.
Another feature in this process is the Object Specific Authorization Protocol (OSAP). This is where a session is ultimately created that controls an exclusive object that is specified when the session is originally set up. When looking at OSAP and how it processes or works under TPM, Ryan (2009) again describes OSAP. An OSAP session is created when the TPM receives the TPM_OSAP command with the name of the session key and an odd OSAP nonce. The reply incorporates the authorization handle, and an even nonce for the “rolling” nonces, as well as, an OSAP even nonce. During this time period as described by Ryan (2009), the user process and the TPM each calculate a “secret hash value”, also known as the “OSAP secret”, which is comprised of the HMAC of the odd and even OSAP nonces within the session’s authdata. At this point, instructions in the authorization session may be executed. In an OSAP session, the authorization HMAC is set on the OSAP confidential value. The rationale of this procedure is to authorize the user process to store the session key for possible prolonged durations during a particular session, without endangering the safety of the authdata on which this whole promise is based upon (Ryan, 2009).
An OSAP phase can also make use of numerous directives, yet these directives must direct a single object identified at the time the session was established. The benefits of an OSAP session as mentioned by Ryan (2009), is so that it can be utilized for instructions that will present additional authdata to the TPM. This OSAP phase can also make use of a number of rules, but the rules must handle a distinct object specified at the time the session was initiated.
TPM attestation is a function that allows system verification to take place by utilizing a remote party. Validation is a key role in the design of TPM and supports the overall structure of a secure system. This process exists to confirm no modifications have taken place that would deviate from a secure standardized process. Attestation ensures that no deviations have taken place based on a standardized set of parameters called the Platform Configuration Registers (PCR) (Lioy, 2011). The deviations attestation may detect include unauthorized software or hardware which can have hostile intent on the overall secure computing process. The process begins with a platform that contains TPM and a verifier, also known as an appraiser. TPM within the specified platform requires authentication, to confirm that the components within the system have not been modified, thus creating a trustworthy source. The TPM possesses an endorsement key (EK) that is delivered to the verifier, which allows the verifier to authenticate the PCR (Segall, 2011). If the verifier agrees that the platform’s configuration is secure, the verifier will grant an authentication key to the platform indicating a validated attestation.
The method of attestation may be based on the needs of the organization that requires trust computing. As attestation models differ, a baseline of relevant features should exist with each model. According to Coker et.al (2008), attestation architectures should have specific principles to become ideal for use. The principles may include:
• Current Information
• Comprehensive data
• Limited Disclosure
• Clear Logical Language
• Trust Mechanisms
An attestation model that is constantly analyzing real-time information generated by the target system is able to further detect anomalies that could affect the decision of the verifier. The analysis can be conducted by using system measurement tools that would provide a comprehensive array of information. The system measurement tool will conduct research on the specific portions of the system. For example, measuring an operating system’s kernel can help verify that the target was not a subject to a network-based attack (Coker, et al., 2008). The full-state or attributes of a target may become a necessary feature to validate system contents enabling the attestation system to function. The internal system data within a target is vital when it comes to the attestation decision making. However, the full contents of the system state should be controlled by the target itself. Having the target control the flow of system information will assist in minimizing unnecessary information disclosure, which could potentially expose users within a secure environment. The target system delivering the encryption key must have a platform language that the attestation system can comprehend. Moreover, the attestation system must be acknowledged by the appraiser and target system. This allows all parties to identify the amount of variation between each of the systems.
The design of an attestation system greatly differs based on the needs of the organization using the method to securely process transactions. A synopsis of five general requirements can provide meaningful content through the principles of attestation (Coker, et al., 2008). The requirements of an attestation system should include:
• Measurement Mechanisms
• Self Protection
• Delegation thru Proxies
• Decision Management
• Target Separation
Architects should devise a comprehensive plan to configure the measurement tool within an appraiser’s system. Each measurement tool is suited to handle specific target parameters, and will not be able to assess various details from other targets as each target contains a unique output set of information. Each measurement tool will understand the boundaries and limitations of the target and with the proper configuration the tool will generate meaningful decisions during an appraisal. In addition to building a sound measurement tool, the system also needs a mechanism to secure the measurement process to prevent unwanted deviations. A preliminary baseline analysis of the measuring tool should be taken into consideration prior to conducting attestation procedures. By establishing a baseline analysis, the attestation system will confirm the overall integrity to monitor target information.
Trust and credibility between target and attestation systems present an obstacle for designers. The information passed from the target to the attestation system will include sensitive parameters that require the utmost protection. An additional intermediary called an attestation proxy can be established to ensure that the target system delivers the appropriate information, while the attestation system receives the necessary amount of data to perform its decision making requirements (Coker, et al., 2008). Therefore, trust by the target and attestation system falls on the attestation proxy, rather than having a direct-trust relationship, which would present conflict if the target information is fallible.
Several target values may deliver vast amounts of information to a single attestation system. Since an attestation system may be required to produce values that correlate to each specific target, a systematic application such as an attestation manager may assist as a databank to perform complex decision making in various scenarios. The manager can disable specific measurement tools to increase efficiency based on each target’s system state. While an attestation manager is helpful in the decision making process, a target that contains corrupt information can be a sign of manipulation, which could cause unwarranted modifications to the attestation system. To prevent the setback from taking place, designers may have the ability to implement virtually created systems that will protect the source attestation system from any potential modifications. A separate virtual machine will create an additional boundary between targets and an attestation system, ensuring that the target’s configuration, whether valid or corrupt will not have any control over the appraiser’s measurement tools.
Existing vulnerabilities can void the credibility of certain TPM processes through hardware related modifications. Although viable solutions exist for most vulnerabilities, each attack poses a great risk to the process, creating the possibility of unforeseen consequences. The most recent version of TPM, version 1.2, addresses critical vulnerabilities found in version 1.1. In version 1.1, a simple hardware attack is possible using a 3-inch insulated wire to reset a TPM bus, bypassing the protective measures of TPM’s auditing mechanism (Lawson, 2007). The issue is resolved with TPM version 1.2., however other vulnerabilities continue to exist.
TPM is vulnerable to replay attacks, which can cause redundant processes to occur unnecessarily. Specifically, the trust computing protocols, Object Independent Authorization Protocol (OIAP) and Object Specific Authorization Protocol (OSAP) are subjected to numerous probes including replay attacks (Bruschi, Cavallaro, Lanzi, & Monga, 2005). The replay attack vulnerability is mitigated through the implementation of two nonce, hash key messages known as a rolling nonce protocol (Chen & Ryan, 2010). TPM may also be subjected to the involuntary, extraction of secret keys which could pose a TPM authenticity as verifiers cannot “distinguish between real TPMs and fake ones,” known as rogue TPMs (Brickell, Camenisch, & Chen, 2004). Viable solutions against rogue TPMs involve the utilization of an intermediary to guarantee the legitimacy of the TPM’s endorsement key.
Future of TPM
TPMs modules are currently inside 600 million PCs as the technology becomes increasingly popular. In the future, TPM expects to distribute their technology to an additional 500 million machines to include major organizations throughout the world by 2013 (Berger, 2010). The potential increase in TPM demand creates a widespread issue for manufacturers, as hardware suitability becomes a major setback. The call to redesign future hardware is a viable solution that would handle new TPM version capabilities (Schoen, 2003).
As the newest version of Microsoft Windows 8 is presented to the public, a security feature labeled Unified Extensible Firmware Interface BIOS standard, a trusted boot mechanism, will be provided by the computer’s TPM (Ashford, 2012). This component has the ability to measure the BIOS during secure boot, which can be reported through remote attestation to a party that can certify the validity of the BIOS from any possible deviations. The Trusted Computing Group (n.d.) has released TPM 2.0’s library draft specification to the public. The additions include:
• Algorithm Enhancement
• Improvements to TPM availability
• Enhanced TPM management
• Addition Cryptographic services for BIOS security
The success of cybercrime is a testament to the myriad of ways criminals can infiltrate organizations and cause havoc. Whether it is through vulnerable, malicious, or misconfigured programs, social engineering, physical theft, or electronic eavesdropping, an intruder only needs to find one weakness to exploit (Challener, Yoder, Catherman, Safford, & Van Doorn, 2008). This leaves organizations with the daunting task of securing their machines and training their employees against an ever changing array of attacks. TPM and Trusted Computing look to address all of these attacks in one comprehensive way through the use of key management, authorization protocols, and attestation. When used to its maximal potential, the consumer can trust that their machines will boot up in a valid configuration, securely store data, identify what user is on what specific machine, and participate in secure protocols with uncompromised keys (Challener et al., 2008). All of these features work towards the goal of frustrating the efforts of intruders and improving the security posture of an organization. Being able to do this in a way that requires no in-depth interaction from the end user also means that training costs, insider threat risk, and the danger of a user introducing a threat into the organization is reduced. Managing the security of end user’s machines from a central root of trust will allow administrators to have a reduced attack surface area to be vigilant of. The potential impact of TPM truly extends from the top of the organization to the bottom. With the availability of software that allows organizations to take advantage of TPM, its adoption should grow.
One important piece of software that will assist with the acceptance of TPM is Windows 8. In Microsoft’s latest version of Windows, TPM has been integrated at many points to enable the setup and management of TPM to be as easy as possible. An organization that is running Windows 8 along with Windows Server 2012 can take advantage of features such as automated provisioning and TPM management, measured boot with support for attestation, TPM-based virtual smart card, BitLocker network unlock, and TPM-based certificate storage (Microsoft, 2012). These features allow Windows users to take advantage of and integrate with the full suite of TPM protections from key management, to remote attestation, to tamper detection. As more and more organizations migrate to Windows 8 their ability to adopt TPM as a security policy should grow as hardware to support TPM is also easy to procure. All of this means that the barrier to entry for organizations to implement TPM has never been lower. Because TPM is able to address security concerns from a hardware based perspective, it provides a unique ability to bolster an organization’s security posture. As such, the acceptance of TPM should only increase as the software infrastructure continues to mature to support TPM hardware.
TPM is a wide ranging technology that encompasses many areas of technology. Because TPM spans so many areas such as key management, remote attestation, and authorization it holds the potential to have a big impact on the way organizations secure their networks. This ability is attractive to a wide swath of industries such as banks looking to ensure customers have the latest secure software before connecting to their networks, media companies wanting to enforce DRM, or companies seeking to protect sensitive information on laptops. Although there may be some parties that may have reservations about TPM, their concerns predominantly speak to the effectiveness of TPM and the level of security it achieves. If an organization does not have concerns regarding computer forensics or end user’s rights, then TPM is an attractive avenue to pursue. While TPM’s hardware and protocols may have a few vulnerabilities, they have not been shown to be easily exploitable or have disastrous potential and should not serve as the impetus to forgo using TPM. With all of the benefits mentioned and the continued maturation and expansion of capabilities, TPM’s applicability should grow as well.
The topics explored throughout the course of this writing provide a foundation for understanding what TPM is, what it provides, its strengths and weaknesses, as well as future growth. These subjects should serve as a comprehensive basis of key current issues and developments in TPM.
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Denial of Service (DoS) Detection, Prevention, and Mitigation Techniques
Author Amy L. Wees
Today most businesses host websites where customers can access their account information, employees can access timecards, conduct discussions, input customer information, track financials, and countless other activities. Without access to a network, productivity and profitability plummets. Denial of Service attacks aim large amounts of traffic at a server causing it to crash or become overloaded limiting access to legitimate customers. Denial of Service (DoS) attacks can do a lot of damage with little warning and much to recover for the victim (Goldman, 2012). For this reason it is imperative to detect, prevent, and mitigate DoS attacks where possible. This paper aims to summarize methods for DoS detection, prevention and mitigation based on the research of three separate sources.
Denial of Service (DoS) Detection, Prevention, and Mitigation Techniques
Corporations, schools, government agencies, and even home computer users conduct most of their business on a computer network by sharing information, resources, and files. This networking can be accomplished on a closed network or in most cases from one network or host to another via the Internet. As soon as information travels over the wire from one place to the next, it becomes vulnerable to interception, corruption, theft or misuse. Information entering a network from the Internet can also make an entire network and hosts vulnerable to computer viruses, Trojans, malicious malware, and a myriad of other dangerous possibilities.
Today most businesses host websites where customers can access their account information, employees can access timecards, conduct discussions, input customer information, track financials, and countless other activities. Without access to a network, productivity and profitability plummets. In September 2012, the websites of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC, JP Morgan, and US Bank were inaccessible to customers for over a week during the largest reported Denial of Service attacks in history (Goldman, 2012). Denial of Service attacks aim large amounts of traffic at a server causing it to crash or become overloaded limiting access to legitimate customers. In the recent bank attack, large application servers were connected from various locations and used as a botnet to overwhelm the bank’s servers, resulting in an extended period of blocked access to customer financial information (Goldman, 2012). Botnets are often created from distributed computers which have been taken over without the user’s knowledge through the use of viruses or malware. Although this type of attack was thought to require a lot of preplanning; it was not very sophisticated and proves that Denial of Service (DoS) attacks can do a lot of damage with little warning and much to recover for the victim (Goldman, 2012). For this reason it is imperative to detect, prevent, and mitigate DoS attacks where possible.
This paper aims to summarize methods for DoS detection, prevention and mitigation based on the research of three separate sources. The research papers chosen for this summary are as follows:
1. A Taxonomy of DDoS Attack and DDoS Defense Mechanisms by Jelena Mirkovic and Peter Reiher
2. DDoS attacks and defense mechanisms: classification and state-of-the-art by Christos Douligeris and Aikaterini Mitrokotsa
3. Survey of Network-Based Defense Mechanisms Countering the DoS and DDoS Problems by Tao Peng, Christopher Leckie, and Kotagiri Ramamohanarao
These sources were selected because each uses similar methodology in analyzing DoS attacks. Each paper explores the different types of Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, the tools available to both perpetrate and defend against attacks, and prevention or mitigation techniques. Where other research works focus on one technique for detection and prevention such as Internet Protocol (IP) trace back, packet filtering or flow control; the above listed works examine a broad range of practices for DoS and DDoS detection, prevention and mitigation based on the situations presented.
There is not one clear path for detection DoS or DDoS attacks. Detection is very much dependent on the type of attack, the target and the perpetrator’s method. This paper will first describe the various types of attack and based on the sources chosen list various methods for detection, prevention or mitigation. Accidental denial of service such as a misconfigured computer or router will not be considered in this summary.
DoS attacks can be categorized by protocols such as network device layer, operating system layer, application layer, data flooding and protocol features (Douligeris & Mitrokotsa, 2004). Examples of these attacks, detection, prevention and mitigation strategies follow.
Network Layer Attack
At the network layer attacks target weaknesses in the software or hardware in devices such as routers. For example, Cisco 700 series routers are known to have a buffer overrun issue during the password checkout process. This weakness can be exploited by connecting to the router via telnet and entering lengthy passwords (Douligeris & Mitrokotsa, 2004). Routers can also be exploited by IP spoofing where IP packets containing forged information are sent to the router. Since the router has no authentication or trace-back mechanism the packets continue on their path with no way for the receiving target to detect what is happening or where that packets are coming from (Peng, Leckie, & Ramamohanarao, 2007). The problem is that spoofed packets can congest the bandwidth of the system allowing rogue and legitimate traffic; eventually denying service altogether.
Network Attack Detection
Router based attacks can usually be detected by monitoring the amount of traffic across the network. If the traffic is unusually high, this may be reason for concern. Those attacks which are launched at a numerous rates may be more difficult to recognize (Mirkovic & Reiher, 2004). A detection method called MULTOPS is mentioned by Mirkovic and Reiher (2004). MULTOPS will detect IP addresses that have been known to participate in DoS attacks and keep track of the packet activity per IP address. This allows the victim to possibly identify the attack source and filter or block the IPs immediately and in the future.
Network Attack Prevention and Mitigation
Mitigating attacks against routers or domain name service (DNS) servers can be accomplished through setting up secondary fail-over resources within the network design (Mirkovic & Reiher, 2004). To prevent attacks Peng, Leckie, and Ramamohanarao (2007) recommend packet filtering at the router to prevent spoofed traffic from entering the network with the caveat that filtering requires extensive deployment to be effective. Traffic should be filtered when entering and leaving the network and at each router along the way that way traffic that may be allowed to enter certain areas may be dropped throughout the process if it does not meet network criteria.
Operating System and Host Attacks
Attacks on operating systems utilize weaknesses in protocol execution. An example is the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) flood. Since ICMP messages are usually broadcast to all machines in a network, an ICMP echo request can be sent to the broadcast machine and that request is forwarded to all network hosts, then when all hosts send the echo reply the traffic floods the victim’s network. This particular example represents a “smurf” attack (Peng, Leckie, & Ramamohanarao, 2007). Another ICMP related attack is the ping of death which sends echo requests larger than the maximum IP size which crashes the victim’s machine (Douligeris & Mitrokotsa, 2004).
The SYN flood attack exploits the three-way handshake required of a TCP connection to overload the memory of the targeted machine. The memory is overloaded because the attacker sends false IP addresses to the targeted machine and that machine stores the initial contact in its memory stack, waiting for a response to complete the data connection. Because a response will never be sent from the false IP the machine has too many half-open connections and the memory stack eventually times out (Peng, Leckie, & Ramamohanarao, 2007).
Operating System and Host Detection
To detect TCP SYN floods, Mirkovic & Reiher (2004) recommend using a standard detection strategy that is based on a rule-set that looks for half-open TCP connections allowing for deletion from the memory stack. Batch detection can also be used to detect SYN floods and captures statistical information about incoming traffic over time. When the traffic patterns change, an attack can be detected (Peng, Leckie, & Ramamohanarao, 2007).
Operating System and Host Prevention and Mitigation
Mitigation of the ICMP flood can be accomplished by disabling the automatic rebroadcasting service or reconfiguring the routers to forward only specified traffic. To prevent a SYN flood, the operating system can be set to limit the number of TCP connections waiting for response and eventually drop them after a timed period (Peng, Leckie, & Ramamohanarao, 2007). To further prevent TCP SYN attacks, protocols on host machines should be patched and updated often (Mirkovic & Reiher, 2004).
Application Layer Attacks
Applications on hosts can also be attacked based on their vulnerabilities. One instance given by the Mirkovic & Reiher (2004) is attacking an authentication server by sending phony signatures. The server will continue to function otherwise but any other application requiring authentication will be denied to the user.
A more commonly seen application level of attack is high traffic on a web site causing the web server to crash. This can be accomplished through a website’s search engine, forms, account request pages or number of simultaneous visits such as an HTTP flood. Because the Internet is utilized so heavily, most firewalls allow open traffic on port 80 (http) making it a prime target for attack. During an HTTP flood, distributed attackers, known as botnets, will flood the web server with requests. Most botnet software is designed to help attackers avoid detection by hiding IP addresses and pushing large files to sites taking up even more bandwidth (Peng, Leckie, & Ramamohanarao, 2007).
Detection of Application Attacks
Detecting application attacks is problematic because there is not a complete denial of service, the malicious activity level is very low and packets are not necessarily identifiable. In order to detect application level attacks Mirkovic & Reiher (2004) recommend monitoring each application in the intrusion detection system and screening regularly for suspicious activity. HTTP floods can be detected by looking for repeat requests for large files and then blocked by the server (Peng, Leckie, & Ramamohanarao, 2007).
Prevention and Mitigation of Application Layer Attacks
Douligeris & Mitrokotsa (2004) reference throttling as a mitigation tactic. Web servers which are overloaded can set router throttles so that all traffic passing through the router is limited to the throttle limit set. This prevents the web server from becoming overloaded and crashing. This also limits requests pushing large files (thus over the throttle rate) from reaching the server and allows legitimate requests through. The throttling method has not yet been proven in a large commercial setting.
Mirkovic & Reiher (2004) recommend overall system security to defend against DDoS atack. Ensuring system security is in place such as intrusion prevention and detection system, and security patching on all hosts. The idea is that attackers are able to gain control of zombie machines for botnets because so many machines are not secured properly. If simple security recommendations were followed the chances of attackers gaining control of such a militia of machines would be lessened and the level of attack subsequently lessened.
Denial of service and distributed denial of service attacks can happen at many different layers and levels within a network. The examples given in this paper only scratch the surface of what is possible. The sources used for this summary offer a wealth of information on the detection, prevention and mitigation of these attacks, all of which are significant in understanding the scope of the problem. Most importantly, they provide a way ahead for securing systems against specific attacks and make valid the difficulty in complete detection, prevention, and mitigation of denial of service attacks.
Douligeris, C., & Mitrokotsa, A. (2004). DDoS attacks and defense mechanisms: classification and state-of-the-art. Computer Networks, 643-666.
Goldman, D. (2012, September 28). Cnn money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/27/technology/bank-cyberattacks/index.html
Mirkovic, J., & Reiher, P. (2004). A Taxonomy of DDoS Attack and DDoS Defense Mechanisms. ACM.
Peng, T., Leckie, C., & Ramamohanarao, K. (2007). Survey of Network-Based Defense Mechanisms Countering the DoS and DDoS Problems. ACM Computer Surveys, 1-42.
iTrust Database Software Security Assessment
Security Champions Corporation (fictitious) Assessment for client Urgent Care Clinic (fictitious)
Amy Wees, Brooks Rogalski, Kevin Zhang, Stephen Scaramuzzino and Timothy Root
University of Maryland University College
Amy Wees, Brooks Rogalski, Kevin Zhang, Stephen Scaramuzzino and Timothy Root, Department of Information and Technology Systems, University of Maryland University College.
This research was not supported by any grants.
Correspondence concerning this research paper should be sent to Amy Wees, Brooks Rogalski, Kevin Zhang, Stephen Scaramuzzino and Timothy Root, Department of Information and Technology Systems, University of Maryland University College, 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and Chad.Root@gmail.com
The healthcare industry, taking in over $1.7 trillion dollars a year, has begun bringing itself into the technological era. Healthcare and the healthcare industry make up one of the most critical infrastructures in the world today and one of the most grandiose factors is the storage of information and data. Having to be the forerunner of technological advances, there are many changes taking place to streamline the copious amounts of information and data into something more manageable. One major change in the healthcare industry has been the implementation of the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems. Having risks and benefits, the electronic medical record systems will strive to provide and change the way healthcare industry will operate. iTrust is a role-based health care web application. Through this system, patients can see and manage their own medical records. Medical personnel can manage the medical records of their patients including those provided by other medical personnel, be alerted of patients with warning signs of chronic illness or missing immunizations, and perform bio-surveillance such as epidemic detection. Today, the gradual introduction of a of these electronic medical records lie at the center of the computerized healthcare industry and are slowly being implemented to provide modern technologies such as cloud database systems and cloud network storage as well as a way to streamline the medical data and patient information process.
Keywords: iTrust, database, cloud computing, software security, application security
iTrust Database Software Security Assessment
Security Champions Company is a software security company that specializes in assessment and analysis of software used primarily in the medical field. Urgent Care Clinic has hired Security Champions to assess the primary cyber threats and vulnerabilities associated with the use of the open source electronic medical records software “iTrust”. As much of the medical industry is moving toward electronic medical records (EMR), we want to ensure our client is in compliance with various stringent regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). We will also provide a risk assessment and ease-of-attack threat analysis for several new requirements Urgent Care Clinic has requested to add to the iTrust software. The following four requirements are reviewed and assessed:
- Add role for emergency responders to view patient emergency reports containing medical information such as allergies, current and previous diagnosis, medication and immunization history as well as blood type.
- Allow patients to search the database for qualified licensed health care professionals (LHCP) for specific diagnosis. The patient will be able to view the doctor’s name, number of patients treated for the specified condition, laboratory tests requested and medication used to treat the diagnosis as well as patient satisfaction ratings.
- The third requirement is to update the diagnostics code tables to reflect new ICD-10 coding standards outlined by American Medical Association guidelines.
- The last requirement is to allow a patient to view the access log for their medical records in an online cloud database system. This allows the patient to see what changes are made to their records and who made those changes.
iTrust Database Software Overview
iTrust is an open source software application created and maintained by engineers at North Carolina State University. The software allows for medical staff from various locations to access patient records, schedule visits, order medications and laboratory tests, and view records, diagnosis and test results. iTrust also allows patients to manage their care by viewing records, scheduling office visits, and finding health care providers in the area (UMUC, 2011).
iTrust Database Table Security Assessment
Each Champion Security teammate individually assessed the security of the various database tables in the iTrust database. The tables were rated and are limited to the numerical choices 1,2,3,5,8,13,20,40,100 with 1 being the lowest security rating and 100 being the highest. The Appendix A table represents each teammate’s individual values (noted by initials) and the average rating of those values combined in the highlighted column (see Appendix A: Table 1 – Database Table Value Points).
Analysis of New Requirements
The information age is growing exponentially, and the more resources and information that can be gained is critical. This stands true to the medical field, particularly medical staff, emergency responders and patients. Adding new requirements to the iTrust system allows for better care, medical attention, and informative information for the client. These new requirements will enhance Urgent Care’s communication capabilities and allow for greater success. By reviewing case-by-case scenarios regarding medical information and background information, these requirements benefit every aspect of Urgent Care’s Clinic. The following analysis will provide more information on the new requirements.
Urgent Care Clinic is requesting four additional roles and allowable access to the iTrust healthcare cloud database system and application. The addition of these roles and access points will be valuable to emergency responders and individuals who are seeking information for their own medical care instantaneously. An emergency responder or a first responder is considered anyone who is qualified and certified in providing pre-hospital care prior to the patient entering the medical facility. The need for these responders to have access to essential health information is necessary in order for them to provide the most appropriate and advance medical treatment in measures to save a patient’s life. The responder could stabilize, treat and perform certain medical procedures on the patient according to their personal medical history (Department of Health & Humans Services, 2006). The responder would need access to allergy, blood type, prescription history, medical history showing prior surgeries and prior diagnosis information. This vital information is valuable when assessing individuals in the field. The procedures that the responders are completing on the patient can then be documented in the iTrust system, so when the individual arrives at the hospital the attending medical staff can view what was done and can evaluate patient treatment from that point forward.
In order for the responder to get authorization and then be authenticated to the system, the use of a biometric control would be applied. This authentication procedure would be extremely beneficial in the field due to the stress of the job. The responder would use his fingerprint to gain access and then proceed to the required medical information. The use of a password and user ID would slow response to the patient because the responder would have to remember that information. If responders are unable to gain access and the proper medical care is not administered, this could lead to law suits or even death. HIPAA would have a role in allowing these types of responders to gain access. The patients could sign a HIPAA waiver during a doctor visit and have it kept in a database so access could be granted without hassle.
Find qualified licensed health care professional
Allowing the patient access to search the iTrust cloud database system for a LHCP, would give them more control over their health care and enhance the quality of care that they receive based on their preferences and diagnosis. This requirement will also give the user relevant information on where the medical facility is, how many people have been referred to the facility, what doctors are considered experts in a particular field, what procedures were used, and the satisfaction of the people that have been seen at that particular facility. Allowing the patient to name their own medical preferences would also decrease man-hours for the staff normally responsible for these tasks.
Providing patients electronic health/medical information by means of a cloud database system makes way for streamlined care by providing the latest medical reports in an instantaneous manner, allows for rural individuals to gain access to specialized medical procedures, and may cut costs in certain healthcare facilities (Polito, 2012). The advantage of being able to cut the number of patients in any single facility would allow for better care of patients, decreased wait times and a more precise diagnosis because each patient’s current medical and health information and patient history could be reviewed thoroughly and quickly by medical staff. Finding the right health care professional would also allow the patient the opportunity to have predetermined questions to ask, have selective information prior to attending the visit, and be more advised on what to expect during the entire process. This information could be very valuable to patients and medical providers because they would not waste their time on individuals that may not have a certain medical problem; in which case the patient would have to be referred to another doctor. This access could provide more efficient and effective medical care.
Update diagnosis code table
ICD-9CM is an outdated medical code system and the new internationally used code system is ICD-10. This new code system needs to be updated in the iTrust medical application so that medical providers can accurately diagnose patients and medical staff knows what the history of the patient was. Updating the coding system will provide proper analysis, quality management within the medical profession, increased productivity and overall compliance with medical regulations (Bounos, n.d.). Entering the new codes would allow a patient to be seen at multiple facilities throughout the world and all medical care providers would understand the prior history. Outdated material could cause errors in treating the patient and possibly cause severe physical harm to a patient. The ICD-10 has significant improvements which allow for diagnosis of symptoms to have fewer codes to describe the medical issue and information regarding ambulatory and managed care encounters (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012).
View Access Log
The last requirement that iTrust would like to make available to the patient is the ability to view access logs for their medical records. The access log would provide information regarding who updated their medical information and when it occurred. This could be very valuable to a patient as they can communicate with the facility regarding any discrepancies in their chart. This might also act as a check and balance system between the patient and the provider, which could also assist in medical insurance billing and payment information. For example, if a patient was diagnosed with ailment X, but the provider mistakenly coded ailment Y in the system, the insurance company may or may not cover the cost of the visit or associated procedures. Allowing the patient to view the access log information can be provided to the insurance provider and the medical facility for correction.
Another advantage of allowing patients to view the access log is so they are able to see if someone compromised their medical information. Being able to catch this breach early enough may allow law enforcement time to track the perpetrator before that information is used in a manner non-conducive to the patient. Without access, the likelihood of a patient knowing their information has been tampered with is severely lessened.
HIPAA was enacted to ensure that personal medical and health information remains secure from others that could use the information wrongfully or intentionally against an individual. HIPAA allows the patient more control over their personal information, applies limits on who can see the information and on what information is disclosed (Thacker, 2003). This law itself provides the patient with access to their medical information and the ability to see what was logged in their records.
Applying the new requirements to the iTrust medical cloud database system allows responders, medical professionals and patients the ability to see information that could lead to a proactive sense of medical care. The efficiency in how medical care is provided could save on medical care costs and make hospital visits more effective due to the limited number of individuals waiting to be seen. The patients will have the option to make the informed decision on which doctor they will see and also have more background information before they see any individual.
Ease of Attack
The iTrust cloud database is relational and made up of tables that account for all the data processing needs of a medical office. The tables record transactions and patient information. Specifically, data is recorded for all patients, is considered personal health information and falls under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). New requirements to the database will pose risks to the confidentiality, integrity and availability (CIA) of data if threats are not mitigated.
The following tables provide supplemental data that feed into the patient record and transaction history. These tables include medical procedures (table: cptcodes), lists procedures performed at office visits and hospitals. Hospitals (table: hospitals), lists hospitals in the system. Diagnosis and immunization (table: icdcodes), lists diagnoses and immunizations with codes. The standard medication codes (table: ndcodes) provides a list of medications.
Other tables in the system are relational and are linked to tables in the system through ‘id’ fields. Allergies (table: allergies) links with the patient record listing allergy by type or description. Lab procedures (table: labprocedure), provides information on what was performed during an office visit and is related to the patient, and office visit tables. Login failure log (table: loginfailures) logs failures, records the date, time, and IP address. Office visit table (officevisits) relates the patient id, hospital id, and office id to the office diagnosis (table: ovdiagnosis), office medication (table: ovmedication), office procedure (table: ovprocedure), office survey (table: ovsurvey) tables. The patients table is a central table that contains personally identifiable information, and relates to the patient health information table, personnel, lab procedure, users, and transaction log tables. Medication codes (ndcodes), office visits (table: officevisits), office visit diagnoses (table: ovdiagnosis), office visit medication prescription (table: ovmedication), office visit medical procedure (table: ovprocedure), office visit survey (table: ovsurvey), patients (table: patients), personal health information (table: personalhealthinformation), personnel (table: personnel), transaction log (table: transactionlog), and users (both patients and personnel called ‘users’). Figure 1: Relational Design shows the relations between the tables.
Ease of attack is the calculation of valued risk by table (value points) on a scale of 1-100. The value points show which table will be least attractive and which table will be most attractive to attack. Ease points are calculated by determining the average value points for each requirement multiplied by the maximum value (or highest value) to obtain a security risk value. The requirements are ranked by security risk, where a higher value means a higher ease of attack and a lower value means a lower ease of attack (see Appendix B: Table 3 – Security Risk). The requirements in order of ‘ease of attack’ are the ability to view the access log of who has viewed their medical records by date, an additional role of emergency responder (ER) who will be able to see a ‘report’ of the patient that details vital medical information, the ability to query for a medical professional according to diagnosis and their zip code, finally an update to the diagnosis code for all diagnoses beginning January 1, 2010. Ease of attack is calculated by a ranked risk of tables used by each requirement (see Appendix C: Table 3 – Security Risk).
The most vulnerable requirement is providing the patient the ability to view their access log. The access log provides vectors of attack that allow the potential malicious user to take advantage of the inference problem (Newman, 2009) to create a picture of internet protocol (IP) addresses within the network, the users medical identification (MID), and action. A good configuration of the network will allow the attacker to focus in on subnets and eventually build an attack using database foot printing (McDonald, 2002) and network configuration. Personnel and other patient’s user IDs could be vulnerable to being seen. An attacker can infer what user IDs belong to certain personnel and eventually determine the level of access (i.e., Doctor, Administrator, etc.).
Figure 1: iTrust Relational Design
Allowing emergency responders the ability to pull a report that will show the patient’s vital statistics has several vulnerabilities. The vital record statistics can be accessed from a police cruiser, ambulance and possibly through a smart-phone type device. As this information is considered personal health information, there is a possibility that records can be left in the open, or accessed by any emergency responder regardless of an emergency. A malicious user can glean a lot of knowledge for further attacks by inferring records combined with using an emergency responder access level. Personal records provide information into other hospital or provider accounts that may be exploited to gain either more information or elevated access to other systems within iTrust.
The need to update diagnosis codes throughout the system implies that the access control level providing the ability has access to most all tables within the iTrust system. The threat is low, all diagnoses must be coded with ICD-10 rather than ICD-9CM and saved to the patient and healthcare provider record. A malicious attacker could use this attack vector to establish the database’s footprints as a platform for further attacks.
The hardest attack vector will be the ‘find qualified healthcare professional’ requirement. A diagnosis and zip code are all that are needed to query the database to pull up potential healthcare providers in the patient’s locality. If the malicious attacker has already exploited one of the easier vulnerabilities presented by the new requirement(s), data provided in a report could help determine how a database is structured.
The new requirements assume that the system as a whole is secure and has not already been breached. The relational database’s design provides for efficiency in data processing and access. The design also presents challenges to security if they are not mitigated. A malicious attacker can infer a lot about the patients, personnel, and users within the database because of its relational design. Security mitigations need to provide a level of confidentiality to ensure personally identifiable information is not vulnerable per regulations ensuring privacy.
Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Liabilities at Urgent Care Clinic
With the advancement of technology and the growing trends of enterprise networks, medical clinics like Urgent Care are becoming innovative and adopting new forms of database storage and network systems. This means the implementation of a cloud database system or a form of cloud storage. Cloud database systems are all the rage, and in a broad sense, they refer to virtual servers housed on the Internet used for storage of data. The cloud database system focuses on increasing the capabilities and the capacity of network storage without having to invest in a new infrastructure. It is a technology that utilizes remote servers to maintain data and applications that can be accessed by consumers and businesses at any time and from anywhere using the Internet (Gruman & Knorr, 2012). It refers to many different computing models like Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). However, implementing a medical cloud database system or utilizing Urgent Care Clinic’s iTrust cloud database services can have both positive and negative effects on data security and consumer availability.
Technological advancements and the unlimited accessibility involved with cloud storage, especially electronic medical records, opens additional avenues for vulnerabilities and threats against data, network systems, and company reputations (Trend Micro, 2011). Cloud storage is here to stay and some very important threats need to be addressed in iTrust’s cloud database systems. With large amounts of data being transferred to the cloud storage servers, physical attacks are turning to network infiltrated attacks and the abusive use of the cloud through dishonest activities. Because cloud computing and cloud storage deals with privacy and a seamless and easy registration system, criminals using new and advanced technologies are targeting weak registration systems and sliding under the limited fraud detection software. This ranks as an extremely high security risk for both businesses and consumers utilizing the iTrust system. The potential use of botnets has the ability to infiltrate a public cloud network and spread malware and viruses to thousands of computers. This has already been seen in the real world with the “Zeus Botnet” attacking the Amazon cloud. The “Zeus Botnet”, having infiltrated Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing service, installed a virus and took over complete command control of a high performance cloud platform (Cimpanu, 2009). This malware caused a system wide outage while remaining hidden and transferring millions of dollars; it had to be dealt with. In this instance and other similar instances, publicly blacklisting IaaS network addresses has been one way to combat and defend against spam and phishing. To further defend against such risks, enhanced monitoring methods dealing with registration and initial validation, should be initiated. Whether implementing cloud analytics software or just more personnel for monitoring purposes, defending against such malware or botnets is a move in the right direction.
Based on the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), another threat to cloud computing and virtual data storage is making sure that the security implications associated with usage and integrated into the service models are understood by consumers. Relying on a weak set of application programming interfaces (APIs) exposes organizations to a variety of security related issues including availability, confidentiality, and accountability (Cloud Security Alliance, 2010, p. 9). Rectifying this situation involves better authentication and encryption procedures on access controls. Also, examining security models of iTrust’s data storage interfaces will help to reduce the susceptibility of attacks on a company’s cloud network. What does this mean for consumers? As for the users and consumers of Urgent Care Clinic’s cloud network, this only helps and instills them with a sense of confidence when they are logging into the virtual storage network; their access information and registration will be kept confidential and secure.
Risks on Urgent Care’s end are also apparent, this means having a separation of duties so as to not run into malicious attacks from a single insider with too much power and access. When ranking this threat among others, it needs to be at the top of the list. The impact of a malicious insider can be devastating to users and have and even larger impact on the organization. Although this has not been seen in the aspect of cloud computing and using virtual database systems today, insider attacks do happen. Financial crash, productivity loss, and damage to the company’s integrity and reputation are just a few areas affected by malevolent insiders. As the human element takes over and companies move toward virtual storage systems, it becomes critical for consumers to understand what policies and procedures are in in place to thwart such wicked attacks. Urgent Care needs to enforce stricter supply chain management systems by incorporating a separation of duties as a way to bring checks and balances into the iTrust application. Also, security breach notification policies need to be applied and employees need to be aware of their surroundings and report any atypical information or suspicious behavior. Training and preventative measures go a long way in preserving company data and brand reputation.
ITrust cloud database users must also be aware of the issues revolving around shared technologies. Whether this be virtual machines, management technologies, or communication systems, these shared technologies have never been set up for strong compartmentalization. As a result, hackers or malicious individuals focus on how to influence the processes of other cloud database customers, and how to gain unlawful access to sensitive medical data. For example, a zero-day attack or one that exploits computer application vulnerabilities, such as the blue pill technology, has the potential to spread rapidly across a public cloud and expose all the data within the server. The “Blue Pill Technology” is a program written directly for a particular operating system that, if implemented, could embed malware into a system and go undetected until it is too late. Because this is a phishing style attack, implementation of security best practices with high-tech monitoring software will help prevent such things from happening. In addition to monitoring software, enforcing some sort of service level agreement for vulnerability remediation and continual scanning and auditing will continue to help keep clinical data and the iTrust virtual storage system secure.
According to cloud computing and cloud database system standards, another risk that ranks up there with the other threats and vulnerabilities is the sense of security and protection of sensitive information and personal data. Companies need to secure information and data through identity management. Identity management has been described as the most essential form of information protection that an organization can use (Aitoro, 2008, Para. 3) and can be defined as the process of representing, using, maintaining, and authenticating entities as digital identities in computer networks (Seigneur & Maliki, 2009, p. 270). Along with the need for identity management is the requirement for accurate auditing and reporting due to federally mandated, regulatory, and compliance directives such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted in 2002, is legislation designed to protect shareholders and the general public from accounting errors and fraudulent enterprise practices. The SOX act is governed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which sets deadlines for compliance and publishes rules on requirements. Additionally, Sarbanes-Oxley outlines which records are to be stored and for how long (Spurzem, 2006, Para 1). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. Furthermore, the HIPAA Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes. The HIPAA Security Rule specifies a series of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards for covered entities to use to assure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d., Para. 1). As a direct result of the organizational needs for both identity management and accurate federal reporting, identity management systems were developed that provide the ability to log, control, audit and report on end user access to particular information assets and serve as the foundation of an organization’s threat and overall compliance strategy (DeFrangesco. 2009, Para. 1-2). Identity management systems are designed to create processes, which address the five fundamental aspects of identity management — Authentication, Authorization, Accountability, Identification, and Auditability (UMUC 2, 2010, p. 5).
Additionally, there are many ways in which data can be compromised and not having a backup of sensitive material remains the biggest fault among users and organizations. Because data loss can have an overwhelming negative impact on a business, it is in the best interest of the company to provide proper policies and hardware for data duplication. Not having data backup in place only renders a company’s information unrecoverable. The threat that data will be compromised in the cloud increases due to the number of and interactions between risks and challenges which are either unique to virtual database systems, or more dangerous because of the operational characteristics of the virtual cloud environment (Cloud Security Alliance, 2010, p. 12). Besides the company’s reputation and integrity being compromised, there is a significant negative influence on customer morale and trust. A company is only as good as the quality of work it produces and when data is leaked or lost, users are not happy. Cloud information systems and implementing virtual data storage revolves around the ability to access sensitive data and personal information at any time and if this service were to go down or be compromised, a company’s reputation will be ruined and a significant financial impact will be placed on the organization. Even worse, depending on the incident, a company might incur legal ramifications for possible compliance violations. For an organization to avoid severe occurrence of data loss, multiple backups should be in place and the data being stored on the network needs to be encrypted so it can be secure in transit. Not only will this provide a sense of data integrity for Urgent Care, it will offer peace of mind to the consumers utilizing the iTrust virtual data storage system.
Another issue that remains a legitimate threat to iTrust users is account service and traffic hijacking. Ranging from phishing to spam, stolen user credentials or mobile devices allow hackers to infiltrate full company networks. With sensitive data being hosted on virtual servers, hackers have an all access pass to everything just by gaining simple entrance, user login information, or an unmonitored mobile device. Because untrained and gullible employees remain the easiest point of entry, an attack on passwords, devices, and user credentials remain at the top of the charts. If an attack were to happen on the Urgent Care network, the hacker would have the ability to monitor transactions, manipulate data, and steal personal customer information all at the click of a button. Preventative measures must be taken by applying password policies, tracking software, and Internet usage information to all employees. Employees must keep personal information and credentials to themselves and appropriate monitoring software must be introduced to oversee all activity within an organization. “Organizations like Urgent Care should be aware of these techniques as well as common defense in depth protection strategies to contain the damage resulting from a data breach” (Cloud Security Alliance, 2010, p. 13).
Finally, when adopting Urgent Care’s virtual storage network service, it is important to provide users with PCI compliant software services. Standards, compliance of internal security procedures, or the information that might be disclosed after an incident occurs, tend to be overlooked and cause and unknown risk profile when moving ahead with cloud computing. Because companies want to move forward with virtual network storage due to the low costs and other benefits that come with implementation, often these overlooked questions, like how is data being stored or who has access, may lead to serious malicious threats. Unknown risk profiles can better be understood when analyzing the Heartland Data Breach. In May of 2008, Heartland Data Center, the fifth biggest payments processor in the United States, was hacked into using known-vulnerable software. This known vulnerable software came packed with a few loopholes to allow hackers to embed a data sniffer, capturing credit card information, card numbers, expiration dates, and internal bank codes, to allow them to duplicate cards and steal customer and business finances (Slattery, 2009). Once Heartland knew about the issue they only took minimal steps to rectify the situation. Heartland did not take the extra effort to comply and notify every single user that was affected. Rather, they were only willing to do the bare minimum to comply with state laws. If an organization is to learn from past mistakes and take anything from the Heartland Data Breach, then it would be to go above and beyond the bare minimum to not only be in compliance with state and federal laws, but to contact every affected user while incorporating proper incident response procedures. Not abiding by these rules or taking the extra step to have a proper incident response plan can cause Urgent Care’s reputation to take a dive and will in turn, have negative ramifications on existing and future customers from utilizing the iTrust database service. Chris Whitener, Chief Security Strategist for Hewlett-Packard, said, “companies should not jump into the cloud or virtual network storage without a proper risk assessment” (Mimoso, 2010). Organizations need to be aware of the risks and evaluate the vulnerabilities as needed.
In summary, the cloud and virtual database storage is, and will continue to grow and be part of the critical infrastructure of many businesses such as Urgent Care, and so must the security and response policies and procedures be considered when migrating to the iTrust virtual storage system. “This role is likely to grow as a multitude of new services are developed and commercialized and users’ level of familiarity and comfort, with this approach to service delivery, develops and grows” (Kate, 2011). Companies are in it for the cost and benefits that can be gained from cloud computing and virtual storage systems but they should be focused on the consumer and end-user aspect of the business. This is what is going to drive a company to the next level. Ultimately, the end-user is the one experimenting and taking the risk by providing a facility such as Urgent Care with sensitive personal data. Organizations taking the next step to secure, monitor, and regulate the information housed on the virtual database network are the ones more likely to give peace of mind to the end-user. “From this study of current cloud computing and virtual storage practices and inherent risks involved, it is clear that at present there is a lack of risk analysis approaches in the cloud computing environments. A proper risk analysis approach will be of great help to both Urgent Care and their patients. With such an approach, patients and staff can be guaranteed data security and Urgent Care Clinic can win the trust of their customers” (Angepat & Chandran, 2012). Cloud computing serves as an ever-growing technology for storage and data processing and the threats and vulnerabilities involved to hang by the wayside. It is and will always be in the best interest of a company like Urgent Care to test these threats and make changes above and beyond expectations. If Urgent Care’s integrity is compromised, then what else is there? Nothing. It is in the best interest of any organization, to make an effort to fortify their cloud network and take into consideration the threats focused on in this paper, to give ample knowledge to defend against attacks and beef up security.
Changes to Security Management Policies
With the inclusion of the new requirements, changes will have to be made to the security policy in order to reduce risk. These changes can come over time, but it must also take as little time as possible. The first step is to improve authentication protocols, such as using stricter password requirements or PKI-based authentication (Katsumata, Hemenway, & Gavins, 2010). Admittedly, a more stringent password requirement may be more of a hassle for patients. On the other hand, employees should be expected to have strong passwords or utilize the PKI system. Cost may factor into this change, and indeed the integration of a PKI system can cost up to $1,000,000 (Katsumata et al., 2010). However, the risk reduction is far higher for PKI compared to passwords, and the cost-to-benefit ratio is much lower in comparison (Katsumata et al., 2010). Security is an investment, not only to the company, but also its users.
The inclusion of regular audits can help improve and refine access controls, making sure that employees have the correct authentication and patient access is both secure and unencumbered (Sommer & Brown, 2011). Penetration testing can find weaknesses in the system as the new roles are established and the entire system changed to incorporate the new security measures (Sommer & Brown, 2011). Lastly, plans for disaster recovery and mitigation should be prepared. Even with all the latest technologies and best policies, there is always the chance that someone will have the luck or skill of breaking through all the barriers. As such, having contingency plans can help reduce the impact of a security breach (Sommer & Brown, 2011). Data redundancies and system technicians trained and prepared for such a crises can help mitigate damage considerably (Sommer & Brown, 2011).
Each requirement needs to be fine-tuned over time for any potential leaks and security hazards. For example, accessing system logs would require strong authentication and regular audits. The audit itself can be a universal security check-up on each requirement, as the audits seek out both weaknesses and discrepancies in the system (Sommer & Brown, 2011). Be it patients’ access rights, emergency responder accesses, or system administrator access, each profile must be scrutinized for properly configured permissions and access controls. Of the three requirements, updating the diagnosis code table has the lowest priority. Authentication is still necessary, but the team had decided that it was unlikely to be a target for attack. Coming to this conclusion was most definitely a team effort.
Reaching consensus over prioritization of security issues was a surprisingly uncomplicated task. Each member of the team reviewed the iTrust addendums and filled out the tables per individual opinion. Individual tables were collected and the values averaged. This way, every team member’s opinion is taken equally and fairly. Fortunately, while there were minor differences on security values and ease of attack points, all team members had very similar tables regarding prioritization. Every team member agreed that certain tables, such as cpt, hospitals, icdcodes, and ovprocedure, were not of high value for attacks. Similarly, the team had similar opinions in that the patient, personalhealthinformation, personnel, and users tables were of the highest values, and thus, the most likely to be attacked. Despite the new requirements needing different access levels to different tables, the team determined that all new roles are equally viable, and highly vulnerable, to attack. This was because of number of tables each role needed access to; each requirement would access a high-risk table at some point. As a result, the team agreed that all new requirements were at high risk for attack. Lastly, using the ease-of-attack value combined with the asset value, the team was able to prioritize the security issues.
There are always lessons to be learned when reevaluating an existing security policy. It is foolhardy to blindly set up new requirements and roles without properly assessing the risk factors these new roles may introduce. Rather, it is important to examine both the new requirements as well as currently established roles and determine the level of risk they represent. By looking at this objectively, we can produce a priority list. In establishing a priority list, we are better able to relegate appropriate resources to protect particularly vital data tables without compromising the overall security of the network. Since these modifications will reflect on security as a whole, we must be careful in making these changes. Ensuring compliance with federal standards is a fantastic first step in the right direction, but we must also look to exceeding these minimum requirements. This leads to establishing trust between provider and client, and trust is what builds successful relationships. An important lesson learned is to make certain that we both deserve and can hold onto the trust of clients, and an excellent way to do so is to make their data secure.
Appendix A: Table 1 – Database Table Value Points
|Table||Value (SS)||Value (TR)||Value (KZ)||Value (BR)||Value
|Use in Requirement #|
Appendix B: Table 2 – Database Tables Used by Requirement
|Requirement||Table(s) Used (Consensus)||Average Value Points of Each Table||Max Value Average|
|1: Add role: emergency responder.||Allergies
|2: Find qualified licensed health care professional.||Cptcodes
|3: Update diagnosis code table.||Allergies
|4: View access log.||Labprocedure
Personal health info
Appendix C: Table 3 – Security Risk
|Requirement||Ease of Attack Points (Average)||Average Max Value of Asset Points||Security Risk||Rank of Security Risk|
|1: Add role: emergency responder.||39.3||100||3930||2 (based on higher ranking average)|
|2: Find qualified licensed health care professional.||18.6||100||1860||4|
|3: Update diagnosis code table.||37.15||100||3715||3|
|4: View access log.||63.5||100||6350||1|
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Firion Corporation Cyber Security Policy
Amy Wees, Gary Coulter, Kyree Clarke, and Leonard Gentile
University of Maryland University College
Amy Wees, Gary Coulter, Kyree Clarke, and Leonard Gentile, Department of Information and Technology Systems, University of Maryland University College.
This research was not supported by any grants.
Correspondence concerning this research paper should be sent to Amy Wees, Gary Coulter, Kyree Clarke, Leonard Gentile, Department of Information and Technology Systems, University of Maryland University College, 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com
The Firion Corporation is a leader in the development of specialized safety outerwear and has a niche market in the waste disposal, chemical, and biological industries. Firion employees use technology in every aspect of the business. Databases contain private customer information, unique software assists in development and testing of proprietary designs, and marketing, financial, and sales data are accessed and stored on our private network. Protection of information is mandated by Firion policy and federal and state legislation. Unauthorized access to the network by cyber criminals or malicious insiders can result in loss of customer information, compromised proprietary business information, severe financial damage, and work outages. Cyber security threats and vulnerabilities can have a detrimental impact on the future of our business and every employee is considered a stakeholder in the protection of the network. Firion will continue to strive to ensure cyber security remains a priority at every level of the company. The goals of Firion’s cyber security policy include increasing awareness by providing employees with applicable illustrations of common threats and vulnerabilities in the industry, identifying data classification procedures and rationalize access control rules, and characterizing sensitive and critical systems and outlining their appropriate safeguards and utilization.
Firion Corporation Cyber Security Policy
Firion Organizational Business Mission
Welcome to Firion! The Firion Corporation is a leader in the development of specialized safety outerwear and has a niche market in the waste disposal, chemical, and biological industries. Our customers count on us to deliver quality products that are safe and reliable. Firion laboratories are constantly at work developing innovative coatings and unique designs to ensure our customers can be confident in the level of protection our products deliver (UMUC, 2010).
Firion’s employees use technology in every aspect of our business. Databases contain private customer information, unique software assists in the development and testing of proprietary designs, and marketing, financial, and sales data are accessed and stored on our private network. Protection of information is mandated by Firion policy and federal and state legislation. Unauthorized access to the network by cyber criminals or malicious insiders can result in loss of customer information, compromised proprietary business information, severe financial damage, and work outages. Cyber security threats and vulnerabilities can have a detrimental impact on the future of our business and every employee is considered a stakeholder in the protection of the network. Firion will continue to strive to ensure cyber security remains a priority at every level of the company.
Cyber Security Goals
Firion’s cyber security policy will be kept relevant and up-to-date to the technology in use. The policy will be communicated to employees on an annual basis to ensure compliance, comprehension, and clarity. The goals of the cyber security policy are as follows:
· Increase awareness by providing employees with applicable illustrations of common threats and vulnerabilities in the industry
· Identify data classification procedures and rationalize access control rules
· Characterize sensitive and critical systems and outline their appropriate safeguards and utilization
- Address physical security as the first line of defense in a defense-in-depth security strategy to include use of personal computing devices on corporate networks and business devices on the road
- Ensure all employees understand their role in business continuity and disaster recovery
- Explain acceptable use of technologies as well as applicable federal and state legislations
- Corporate privacy policies will disclose what information is collected and how information is utilized and stored
- All e-mails sent over Firion networks are subject to monitoring. Employees are expected to conduct business communications in a professional manner, limiting e-mail sent for personal use
- Employees will not present themselves as representatives of Firion outside of corporate functions nor use their professional title in public online forums
- Internet usage is monitored, and employees are expected to use corporate Internet for business and limited personal use purposes. Certain Internet Web sites are blocked if considered a threat to the network or not necessary for business practices
- Employees must use software issued and approved by Firion. Unlicensed software or freeware is not authorized for use on corporate assets. Exceptions to this policy can be granted by Firion’s Information Assurance manager
- Personal computing devices and mobile telephones are not authorized on corporate property. Employees will be provided with lockboxes for securing their valuable items
- All company issued mobile computing devices are subject to auditing and virus scanning prior to being connected to corporate networks
- Employee passwords will not be shared with anyone or recorded. Passwords must meet minimum complexity requirements and change every 90 days
- Ethical computing concerns can be brought to Firion’s Information Assurance manager for consideration or evaluation at any time
Ethical practices are about doing the right thing when no one is looking. Firion is committed to preserving a reputation for sound ethical computing practices. Though Firion will take every precaution to protect employee and customer private data located on its systems, it is important to understand that no system is 100 percent secure. Employees and network users can contribute to network security and information privacy by following ethical guidelines:
Cyber Security Policy Introduction
Cyber security is essential for just about any organization, including Firion. One of the reasons why it is so vital to ensure that computer networks and systems within an organization are secure is that cyber criminals both inside and outside the organization pose a serious security threat to businesses. In order to protect against the threat of cyber attackers, whether they are inside or outside the organization, Firion has developed a policy that describes how it intends to secure its computer networks and systems.
It is not enough for Firion to simply develop a cyber security policy and sit back, thinking that its network and systems will suddenly be secure. Firion must also ensure that employees understand and comply with the cyber security policy. This is necessary because Firion’s employees, or employees of any organization for that matter, are the weakest part of the network. Even the most state-of-the-art cyber security technologies will not be able to protect Firion’s networks and systems from cyber security threats if its employees are engaging in behavior that jeopardizes the security of those networks and systems. Sharing passwords, leaving passwords on Post-It notes for display on their computer monitors, or clicking on links in e-mails that are sent by people that they do not know are all examples of how easily a network can be jeopardized. In order to prevent these and other behaviors that may open Firion’s network and systems up to cyber security threats, the company must be sure that its employees understand and are complying with the company’s cyber security policy.
By implementing a strong cyber security policy and ensuring that employees understand and comply with that policy, Firion is taking a crucial step in securing the network and its systems from cyber security threats. In addition, a strong cyber security policy coupled with employee understanding and buy-in will help prevent Firion from experiencing the negative effects of cyber security breaches. For instance, by protecting its systems from cyber security threats, Firion will also be working to prevent the unauthorized access of information that is stored on its systems, including trade secrets, customer payment information, and any confidential personnel information, such as Social Security numbers. The loss of such information could have serious consequences for Firion. The consequences of a competitor obtaining the company’s trade secrets could be very serious, since these secrets form the basis of our business. In addition, the loss of sensitive information such as employees’ Social Security numbers could result in Firion absorbing the expense of credit monitoring for affected employees, while the confiscation of customer payment information could result in a loss of trust among Firion’s customers. Customer dissatisfaction can also result in financial ramifications for the company and could cause potential legal liability (Feigelson & Calman, 2010).
Achieving Employee Buy-In for Firion’s Cyber Security Policy
Now that the importance of employee understanding and compliance with Firion’s cyber security policy has been demonstrated, it is pertinent to spell out how Firion plans to achieve the level of employee support and buy-in that is necessary for this cyber security policy to be effective. Firion will practice a three-pronged approach: education, rewards for compliance, and penalties for non-compliance.
Firion will seek to educate employees about cyber security by requiring them to participate in a Web-based training program when they are hired. An annual refresher course will also be required for all employees. Web-based training has proven to be one of the most effective ways to educate employees about cyber security issues (Rudolph, 2009, p. 28). Web-based courses are an optimal method for training because courses can be taken at any time and are self-paced (Rudolph, 2009, p. 29). In addition, Web-based courses can be tailored to the needs of employees based in their levels of experience and various interests (Rudolph, 2009, p. 29).
Rewarding or Punishing Employees for Complying or Not Complying with Firion’s Cyber Security Policy
Additional steps will need to be taken to ensure that employees understand and comply with Firion’s cyber security policy. For example, employees will be required to sign an agreement stating that they understand the policy and that they intend to comply with it. Requiring employees to sign compliance statements is an effective way of making them more security aware and committing them to comply with policies that are put in place to protect Firion’s network and computer systems (Rudolph, 2009, p. 30).
Rewards and punishments are another necessary component of Firion’s efforts to ensure that employees understand and comply with the cyber security policy. Firion should not take the approach of considering compliance with its cyber security policy a core requirement for employees as this approach has proven to be unsuccessful in the past. Government agencies, for example, once treated cyber security as a core requirement and did not make an attempt to give it special emphasis (Rudolph, 2009, p. 8). These agencies eventually began to suffer from a growing number of security breaches (Rudolph, 2009, p. 8). Firion should not and cannot make the same mistake that these government agencies did. We at Firion recognize that security needs to be an area of special concern that is emphasized frequently so that our network and systems can be properly protected from cyber security threats (Rudolph, 2009). In order to emphasize security as a special area of focus, employees will be given rewards for complying with Firion’s cyber security policy. These rewards will be given out partly on the basis of informal security audits performed by members of Firion’s information technology (IT) security department. Once a month, a member of Firion’s IT security department will walk around the company’s office and observe employee behavior, such as whether or not passwords are written on Post-It notes and visible in the work area as well as whether or not computers are powered on and logged in while employees are away from their desks. Employees who are found not to be engaging in these and other behaviors will be given a small reward, such as a gift card to a local retailer or restaurant or a small cash bonus. Rewards will also be given out to the company as a whole based on company-wide compliance with the cyber security policy. For example, all employees can be rewarded with some type of perk if the number of cyber security incidents declines on a quarterly or yearly basis since this would likely be an indication that employees understand and are complying with Firion’s cyber security policy. Such perks could include breakfast for the employees, paid for by Firion. Conversely, employees who are found to be violating Firion’s cyber security will be punished. This punishment will be based on the severity of the violation, with the most serious violations resulting in termination and potential legal implications. The severity of a violation will be determined by Firion’s Chief Information Officer (CIO).
In addition, compliance with Firion’s cyber security policy will be one of the areas that managers will consider when conducting annual performance reviews. Employees who are found not to have violated Firion’s cyber security policy over the past year will be given a monetary bonus. Those who are found to have violated Firion’s cyber security policy over the past 12 months will be punished. This punishment could include the loss of vacation time or other perks. The type of punishment that is given will be decided on a case-by-case basis, though more severe violations will warrant a more severe punishment. Once again, the severity of a violation of Firion’s cyber security policy will be determined by the CIO.
Procedures for Reporting Security Breaches, Violations of Cyber Security Policy, and Security Vulnerabilities
All employees are required to report security breaches, violations of Firion’s cyber security policy, and security vulnerabilities that they are aware of. As soon as employees become aware of any security breach, cyber security policy violations, and/or security vulnerabilities, they should immediately notify an IT systems administrator and provide any information that they may have. This information can include the name of the person who is involved in the cyber security breach or policy violation, the system that contains the security vulnerability, or the system that has been breached, among other things. Immediate notification will allow Firion’s IT security department to take action on any urgent issues that arise. By urging employees to report any information that they have about the nature of a security breach, policy violation, or security vulnerability, the IT security department will be able to determine whether or not the issue requires immediate attention. Any reports that are deemed to be legitimate will be investigated by the IT security department. The time frame of such an investigation will depend on the seriousness of the security breach, policy violation, or security vulnerability. After the conclusion of the investigation, the IT security department will address the issue in an appropriate manner. This includes correcting the security vulnerability, reporting the employee who was found to have violated Firion’s cyber security policy, and taking steps to end the security breach.
Awareness and Information Security
Employees of Firion pride themselves on the quality of the jackets the company produces, the safety these products provide, and the science that goes into making Firion a cutting edge company. That pride can have negative effects on the company and its future business. Because Firion is a cutting edge company, special attention must be applied to the security of its physical and intellectual assets. This intellectual property is not just what might be considered a secret formula, or an important release date, but can include small pieces of information that could easily be incorporated into a much larger piece. At Firion we call this desire to be cognizant of information, its use, and how it is protected “Information Security” (Information Security, n.d.).
Many individuals may desire to gain access to information that Firion owns for a variety of reasons. These actors may desire to access to the company’s systems for personal profit or to gain additional information about Firion’s scientific developments in order to further their own research or to sell the information to competitors. It is also possible that an actor may be disgruntled with Firion and seek to cause harm to the company as a whole (Campbell & Kennedy, 2009).
These actors can be blunt and seek to gain information directly from an employee. More likely the actor will lie, cheat, steal or apply subterfuge in order to obtain the information they desire. It is essential that employees are aware that these actors are present, as knowing a threat exists is the first step in being able to create a defense (Voiskounsky & Smyslova, 2003).
In order to protect the employees of Firion, there are a number of procedures in place to prevent the deliberate or inadvertent sharing of company information. It is preferred that employees of Firion do not act as representatives of the company on either public or private forums unless their job duties entitle them to be public relations representatives. This protects not only Firion by assuring that company data is shared in a controlled fashion, but also protects the employee so they do not become a target for any derogatory information that may be reported against the company.
Employees at Firion, depending on duties, are asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. These agreements are written to protect especially sensitive information. They are legally binding and allow for Firion to maintain control of its company-based intellectual property and are enforced under U.S. federal law. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 is designed not only to protect company’s secrets from being sold to a foreign power, but to protect the sale of corporate secrets in total. Under this law, any individual who discloses a trade secret to the economic benefit to anyone other than the owner of that secret can be imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or face up to $5 million in fines (44 USC § 3542, 2002).
Data Classification and Access Control
Data is a critical asset at Firion. Beyond the day-to-day production of protection equipment, the company has thousands of employees who have provided private, economic, and health based information to the company. This data is just as critical to protect as any company secret. All employees are responsible for information security. As such the company has instituted a series of data classifications to help guide employees as to how data should be treated both inside and outside of Firion.
This classification of data is designed to be a tool to help employees protect critical information from being disclosed to illicit actors. These actors could utilize this data to further their own economic or personal goals (Woodbury, 2007). Firion classifies data into four separate categories: public, official use only, confidential, and secret.
Public data is that which is made publically available from the company. This type of data can include company produced brochures, pamphlets, or catalogs. It may also include publically available press releases as approved or issued from Firion’s public affairs branch. Finally, it includes any and all interactive, publically-available data that may reside on the company Web site.
Official use only data is content that must be guarded due to ethical or privacy concerns. It must be protected from access, modification, transmission, storage or any other use other than what has been authorized by Firion. This data type is restricted to employees of Firion and should not be shared outside of the company. This information can include employment data, company phone books, internal e-mails, or internal memos and should be stored in protected forms of physical and electronic storage. Official use only information should not be posted or shared in public forums to include both physical and electronic mediums. When it is no longer needed it should be destroyed, shredded, or sanitized.
Confidential data is contractual or protected by statutes or regulations. This type of data is only disclosed to individuals on a need-to-know basis. The disclosure of this data can only be authorized by the company president, vice president, or board of governors. Examples of this type of data may include medical records, Social Security numbers, personnel and payroll records, bank account numbers, personal financial information, and any data that is identified by government regulation to be treated as protected data. This data should only be stored in a physically locked container or in a password-protected electronic format. It should not be disclosed without explicit management authorization and must not be published in any public forum. Finally, confidential data can only be destroyed by shredding or if in electronic format, sanitized and degaussed prior to disposal.
Secret data is information that if released could potentially damage Firion or lead to substantial loss of economic standing. This data shall never be disclosed outside of the company. Individuals who may have access to this data shall be under the non-disclosure agreement, which will legally bind them not to disclose this information. Examples of this data may include current internal economic statistics, protected manufacturing techniques, or on-going negotiation information. This data should only be stored in authorized systems that are separate and protected from day-to-day systems. All data on this system should be protected by a strong password at a minimum. This information should never be shared, printed, or created into a physical form. Destruction of this data must be through an authorized electronic format that includes sanitization and degaussing of magnetic materials.
Data classification is designed to ensure Firion is in compliance with a number of federally mandated laws. All health related information is required to be protected by the Health Insurance Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) (HHS, 2003). The Privacy Act of 1974 guarantees the protection of personal information (5 USC § 552A, 1974). Financial data is regulated, protected, and managed based upon the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-204, 2002). Finally, company secrets are protected under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (44 USC § 3542, 2002).
Sensitive and Critical Systems
Because of the importance of data at Firion there are many different types of authorized systems utilized inside the company. These systems can include the computers that individuals use on a day-to-day basis, the laptop that a team uses when it travels to create a presentation for a potential customer, the Blackberry that an executive receives e-mail on, or the closed network computer that individuals utilize while working on proprietary data.
These systems are increasingly vulnerable to potential attack or intrusion by an ever-growing community of qualified people with the intent to steal data. These actors may seek access to these systems for monetary gain for themselves or the company they work for, they may have personal reasons for seeking out data in Firion’s systems, or they may desire to destroy Firion’s capabilities from the inside (Verduyn, 2005). These actors can use a number of vectors to access Firion’s systems, including direct attacks from an external network source such as the Internet, a virus spread from a Universal Serial Bus (USB) drive, or utilization of pirated or unauthorized software as a cover to gain access. These actors are smart and will utilize any and all potential avenues to gain access to Firion’s systems.
Because of these vulnerabilities, Firion has instituted a strict policy concerning utilization of systems. Personal systems, capabilities, or software are never to be used on or with company owned networks, systems, or software. It is unacceptable for employees to have USB drive, wireless devices, or personal electronics in the work place. No item is to be put in contact (wired or wireless) with a company owned system until such time as it is scanned and authorized by a qualified company network systems administrator. Also no company system will be allowed to connect to an unauthorized system outside of the company network architecture without the authorization of a system administrator and information assurance manager. Finally, any and all systems that are utilized outside of the company network will be audited as soon as they are returned to a company workspace and before they can be utilized on a company owned network architecture.
This regulation enables Firion to continue to be in compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This act mandates that companies continue to maintain internal controls, specifically for financial information (Public Law 107-204, 2002). By assuring control of all systems within Firion and protecting those systems the company is able to assure that all financial data is secure.
Firion can prevent or counter some security mishaps by simply being proactive when it comes to the company’s physical security. Physical security relates to any device that is used to protect or prevent inside or outside threats from damaging an organization’s proprietary information, networks, or assets. If properly mandated, hackers and employees alike have less of a chance to infiltrate a system with malicious intent. Performing regular surveys to access exactly what Firions’ needs are regarding security allows management to see the threats and vulnerabilities faced by the company aside from human factors as well as the positive enforcement that is already in place.
With the amount of activity and people involved with the day to day operations on-site, it is mandatory for a company that deals with so many outside sources to have a strict entry and exit policy. Starting from the outside of the building, the physical security program includes guards that approve the entry of vehicles, specific identification badges that show each employee, contractor, or vendor access privileges and expiration dates, parking passes that correspond to specific cars as well as posts and patrols that are actively involved with patrolling their assigned area (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).
Firion will be proactive in securing its buildings so that the chances of unwanted guests or cybercriminals gaining access to the property are lessoned. A gate that is occupied by a guard will keep track of who is entering and exiting the facility and the company will also record these interactions on surveillance cameras. Once a person has been approved to enter the facility, access badges with proper identification will categorize exactly what access the person has and where he/she can go throughout the building. It is pertinent that Firion keep up to date with security compliance so that all individuals holding a badge are documented, recorded as they scan through turnstiles and are promptly revoked access after their badge has expired or after they have been terminated. Employees are also required to register their vehicles once they are given access to enter the facility as a way to keep track of vehicles that enter the premises without being overly burdensome. Marked parking passes eliminate extra work for the security guards and patrols as their attention can be focused more on visitors and other vehicles that are new to the building or making drop-offs.
With these procedures in place, threats and vulnerabilities associated with physical security are lessened. Employees will not have access to areas that do not relate to their job functions nor will they be able to enter certain parts of the facility during the day or after hours without their badge being scanned. Once scanned, a log is kept to track exactly where they are located in the building and how long they remain before entering a new section. Employees will also utilize access badges when logging into computers as level of computing privileges and information access is stored on each individual badge. A simple user will not have the same access privileges as an administrator and will ultimately not able to modify any settings on their computer or be able to download any unlicensed software that may unknowingly harm the system or network they are connecting to. By utilizing this mechanism, separation of duties will be clear for employees and they will never have to question if they have certain rights to perform certain actions.
Outside threats and vulnerabilities for employees working while on travel or from home can be a problem if employees do not take necessary precautions. Employees that have portable laptops should always be cautious when on travel and connecting to other networks or unsecured Wi-Fi. The Information Technology (IT) department will ensure proper security settings are in place before distributing laptops as well as require users to attend a mandatory training session on what is and what is not acceptable when it comes to downloading software, or using USB and other external devices.
Employees, contractors, and vendors alike must be aware of the acceptable use policy in place at Firion. Ongoing security awareness training and mandatory continuing education are areas that will help reduce human errors that could contribute to possible security violations and other mishaps. When the whole company follows proper standards and procedures, it is easier to see where the problem areas rest. With employees being identified before reaching the building, wearing access badges and locking computers when in not in use, physical security becomes less of a risk to the organization. Once employees are made aware of how important their role is in making the company more secure and have shown positive reinforcement of some sort, compliance naturally increases.
Data Back-up and Disaster Recovery
In order to recover from a disaster or data-loss incident, Firion will securely back up data on a regular basis depending on the system, and store back-ups at an off-site location. Firion will have data access control in which archived data can be retrieved without much effort and is readily available when needed. Storing information (servers, hard drives, or copyrights) at the off-site location is a good way to mitigate threats to security. Not only is the off-site facility secure, it has a better chance of surviving a natural disaster and is unknown to virtually anyone that works for the company except the specifically identified members of the disaster recovery team. As such, each team member with access to the off-site facility is recorded and is required to sign in and out when entering and exiting the building; which keeps a running log of who is accessing what and when.
To be sure Firion is able to maintain business continuity; a disaster recovery plan will be regularly updated. One cannot automatically assume that having a disaster recovery plan means that it will ever be put to use; however, it should be looked to as preventative maintenance. A company is more apt to survive a disaster when it is prepared for the worst. Having systems or networks that have been hacked or attacked by malware and/or viruses, normally results in downtime as well as financial loss. With a recovery plan in place, data is backed up and easily accessible, risk assessments have been periodically given to ensure security policies are sufficient, and government regulations have been taken into consideration.
The threats and vulnerabilities associated with faulty equipment such as the firewall that was not patched with the most up to date software would have been addressed during the initial creation of the disaster recovery plan. Outsider threats that could potentially damage the organization would be denied and insider threats would be easily detected. Each member that participates in the disaster recovery plan will have a clear understanding as to what their roles and responsibilities are and have an active role in updating the user community with policies and procedures.
Overall, if employees of Firion stick to the cyber security policy that has been put in place, the company will have a successful track record when dealing with insider and outsider threats. Positive reinforcement, mandatory training, and simply being knowledgeable about security vulnerabilities are all motivating factors for employees to follow process and procedures. The monthly periodic reviews are also a good way to make sure the security policy is being enforced. Although physical security, inside and outside the organization, are definitely key factors when it comes to protecting a company’s assets, the manner in which Firion deals with human factors is what will determine how successful the company will be in mitigating the threat from cyber criminals or malicious insiders.
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